There is so much he can do that Clark must fight a very human urge to overwork him. Injury is the great finisher for NFL runners. Knee injuries brought Gale Sayers and O.J. Simpson to earth. Larry Brown's body was used up by the time he was 28.
Sims is aware of this rather ominous historical fact. His sophomore year in college was washed out because of a banged up shoulder. When the NCAA awarded him a rerun, an injured right ankle cut that one short, too. In answering What Do You Consider Your Biggest Thrill in Football? on the Lions' rookie questionnaire, Sims wrote, "Able to remain healthy my last two years." And as he neared the end of his 87-yarder against the Packers he slowed down and seemed to tantalize Safetyman Johnnie Gray, whom he knocked off with a stiff-arm, but there was a very logical reason for what he did.
"I felt a slight twinge high up in my leg," Sims said. "I didn't want to risk pulling anything by running full-out, so I relied on the straight-arm."
So far the Lions' approach to Sims' work load has been sensible. "We'll put in a special play or two for him," says Danielson, "like the little misdirection reverse he ran today [two carries, 22 and 24 yards, the second one fooling everyone on third-and-one], but you won't see us just giving the ball to Billy on first and second down.
"We're not going to burn him out. I think it's a mistake Chicago has made with Walter Payton the last three years. You can't run your whole offense around one person. We've got a lot of offense. Be patient. He'll get his chances."
Detroit's offense has seen things from the underside. There are few superstars. Last year the Lions were fourth from last in rushing in the NFL. Now they're running away with it, with 560 yards in two games. Danielson, out of Purdue, broke in as a pro in a dimly lit stadium on Randalls Island as a backup quarterback for the New York Stars of the WFL. The Lions found him working in a sheet-metal plant in Detroit. Until this year his highest NFL salary was $45,000.
He's not lacking in courage. On Thursday night his nine-day-old baby girl died in an incubator. The Lions' office was flooded with calls from the bettors. Will he play or won't he? With Danielson there was never any doubt.
"Her heart stopped two times and each time they brought her back," he said on Sunday. "She fought so hard, and she was too little to even know what she was fighting for. No, I don't think it's such a courageous thing, just to play in a football game."
The offensive line is a proud group, underpaid for the most part, very conscientious in their work. "I looked at Billy in the huddle today," said Right Guard Russ Bolinger, "and it was like he was possessed. He just wanted the ball. Last week, after the Rams game, I was walking off the field with Jack Youngblood, and I said to him, 'I don't know about your million-dollar rookie, but ours is worth every penny.' "
Clark is a bit guarded when people ask him about Sims. "He's helped us, but our whole offense has improved," Clark says. When someone inquired why the Lions didn't throw a pass to Sims in the first half Sunday, he said, "Didn't we? I thought we threw one."