"People think I'm a sissy," says Lieut. Phil McConkey, a 27-year-old former Navy helicopter pilot who's the Giants' free-agent rookie kick and punt returner and occasional wide receiver. "Whoever heard of a Naval officer suffering from chronic seasickness? But that was me. I was on a four-month cruise of the Mediterranean. The ship would start rocking, and I'd jump in a helicopter and fly around—just to get off the ship."
McConkey, a 1979 graduate of the Naval Academy, was reassigned to a desk job. In February 1983, witnessing his frustration, his parents suggested he think about trying pro football. "I said, 'Are you crazy?' " recalls McConkey, who was an honorable mention All-America. " Roger Staubach did it, but...."
McConkey still had his speed (4.4), and he spent five months working out three times a day to regain his strength and stamina. In the summer of '83 he took a two-month leave and wowed 'em at the Giants' training camp. "But some admirals saw me on TV [in a preseason game] and went nuts," McConkey says. "I thought I'd be sent to Cuba." Instead he was denied an early discharge and was shipped off to Pensacola, Fla.
Then the tide turned. Ex-Navy teammate Kit McCulley, whose father, Pete, is the Chiefs' quarterback coach, was in his unit and Richard Todd, the Saints' QB, lived down the beach. They put McConkey through his paces. When he was finally discharged last May, he was ready: he's averaging 20 yards per kickoff return.