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Jimmy Allen, the elder statesman of the Detroit Lions secondary, sat in front of his locker, reading from an imaginary primer. "See Billy run," he singsonged. "Billy runs fast. Run, Billy, run. Billy can run pass routes. Billy can run draws. He can run uphill, he can run downhill. He can run faster than you. Run, Billy, run."
Then Allen threw back his head and laughed. And why shouldn't he? The Lions had just won their second laugher in a row, 29-7 over Green Bay in Milwaukee County Stadium, a place that had been a jinx house for Detroit. The Lions hadn't won there since 1975; they'd won only two games there in the last 38 years. Jinxes? Forget it. They've got Billy. Run, Billy.
Billy Sims has broken out of the gate like a wild man. In Detroit's two wins—which happens to have been the Lions' victory total for all of 1979—his numbers look like this: 287 yards rushing on 42 carries for a 6.8 average after Sunday's 20-for-134 effort against the Packers. Four passes caught for 158 yards after he grabbed a little one (seven yards) and a big one (87 yards) Sunday. Five touchdowns were as many as anybody scored for the Lions all last season.
Steady now, let's not get carried away. Let's maintain some perspective. At 5'10¾" and 208 pounds, Sims isn't physically overpowering, and there will come a day when he gets stopped, when the Lions' offensive unit is flat and the other guys' defense is gang-tackling. When? Who knows?
"I still can get better," Sims said after ripping through the Pack. "I have to get better. Today I don't feel I ever got loose. It was kind of cold out there."
How much better can he get? Can we whisper some of the numbers he ran up at Oklahoma, the three 200-yard games in a row in his junior year, the 282-yarder against Missouri as a senior? Hey, that's college stuff, remember? The wishbone, Boomer Sooner, 80 running plays a game, five passes. You don't do that in the NFL. They eat up rich rookies there.
"I believe those 200-yard days will come," Sims says. "They always have. They have ever since I've been playing football. Even though the league is bigger and tougher now, those days are really possible. But you get yourself in trouble going into a game figuring on 200 yards."
He says it matter-of-factly. There is nothing boastful about this rookie. He works at his job, and the linemen work at keeping the way open for him.
"He's not lazy," Allen says. "You see him in the weight room, working. You see him on the practice field, working. The veterans, well, we hear so much about a new guy, we want to check him out. He checks. In two games he has made believers out of us. He's going to have a nice career with this club."
Going into the 1980 draft there were some questions about Sims. First there was his age. On Sept. 18 he'll be 25. "You know, it's a funny thing, but since he got here I don't think I've heard that mentioned at all," says Lions' Coach Monte Clark. "It's not the years that matter, it's the NFL years. That's what shortens a runner's career, those years of taking all those shots."