Work in Sports
Dayne heads home
Giants take Heisman winner, N.J. native with 11th pick
Posted: Saturday April 15, 2000 05:33 PM
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Wasting no time on second thoughts or trade talk, the New York Giants filled a gaping hole at halfback by selecting Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne with the 11th pick overall in the NFL Draft on Saturday.
Most teams took the majority of the 15 minutes allotted to make their first-round selections, but the Giants needed only one minute, 59 seconds to choose the big tailback, who left Wisconsin as the all-time leading Division I rusher with 6,397 yards.
A smiling Ernie Accorsi, the Giants general manager, was already downstairs briefing beat writers about the former southern New Jersey star from Overbrook High School before commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced the choice on national television.
"The more I watched him, the more I knew about him, the more I talked to him and saw him and talked to people about him -- it was a while ago that I knew this was the guy," said Giants coach Jim Fassel, who meet Dayne at the Hula Bowl in January. "There was no doubt in my mind. I've been convinced for a while."
Dayne, whose family lives in New Jersey, said he was happy to go to the Giants.
"Just being from Jersey, I got to watch them a lot," Dayne said. "A lot of people that weren't able to see my play [at Wisconsin] can see me play now."
Dayne, who spoke Saturday decked out in a Giants baseball cap and warm-up jersey, said he knew in advance the Giants were interested in him.
"They had all my plays, everything cut up from every play I ran, how many times I ran it," he said. "I kind of knew I was going to be going out there."
On the surface, Dayne gives the Giants a power runner for a team that averaged 88.1 yards rushing and missed the playoffs for the second straight year.
It was the first time the Giants had averaged less than 100-yards in a non-strike season since 1953, but it also came in a year where New York lost its top running back, Gary Brown, for most of the season. Rookie Joe Montgomery's team high 348 yards were the fewest since Bobby Duhon had 344 in 1970.
Accorsi said there is a lot more to Dayne, 5-foot-10 and somewhere between 255 and 263 pounds, than meets the eye. The general manager also insisted the big guy can catch the ball coming out of the backfield. He had only 31 receptions in his career at Wisconsin, including just one last season.
"I don't think his No. 1 attribute is power," Accorsi said. "I really think his No. 1 attribute is his quickness, and his No. 2 attribute is his vision."
Together, they make Dayne as elusive as he is powerful. He proved that the past two years in the Rose Bowl MVP twice, combining for 446 yards rushing and scoring five touchdowns.
Dayne, who watched the draft in Wisconsin, had a feeling the Giants were going to take him, based on the interest the team has shown in him and reports he and his brother, Yas, had gone over in recent days.
A couple of days ago, he also dreamed that the Giants would pick him.
"We were winning the Super Bowl," Dayne said of the dream.
Dayne is expected to start next season, although Fassel said the job will be up for grabs in training camp.
Dayne knows some will doubt him.
"That's my hunger that makes me want to go out and play," he said. "People still doubt me, saying I can't do this and can't do that. That's what happened my first year in college and my senior year in college. People doubted me and doubted me. I just want to prove I'm a great back and can do anything small backs do, and even better."
The Giants also coveted tailback Shaun Alexander of Alabama, but with Dayne still available, the team had no choice but to take the Heisman Trophy winner.
Marv Sunderland, the Giants director of player personnel, said Dayne's size, his ability and his production in college were too good to pass up.
"He's been a guy that has taken it over in the fourth
quarter," Sunderland said. "If you watched the Rose Bowl and
games like that, he's a guy who keeps coming at you and coming at
you, and pretty soon he wears you out."