CANTON, Ohio -- When the New York Giants sent in rookie running back Andre Williams for starter Rashad Jennings on Sunday night in their preseason opener, Jennings said he could see the whites of Williams' wide eyes.
"I told him, 'Don't worry about it. As soon as you get hit, you realize it's just football,'" Jennings said.
Williams did just fine. He carried the ball five times for 37 yards on the Giants' first touchdown drive of the game. On the play before he ran it in for a three-yard score, he rumbled 21 yards around the left side on a zone run. He showed power and speed and comfort with the offensive playbook. And while his performance came against a second-team Bills defensive line and he still has a ways to go before he can be trusted to contribute in the passing game, the fact that the Giants rotated Williams and Jennings in and out with their first-team offense indicates that he may be a big part of the initial plan.
"He did exactly what we thought," Jennings said. "He's a physical guy, a downhill runner. He's a talented guy who wants to play, wants to learn and wants to be great."
Williams was very happy with the opportunity and what he was able to do with it. Scoring a touchdown in his first game, even if it was a preseason game whose result doesn't count, was a game-changer for him personally.
"Once I got in the end zone, my mind kind of went blank, and it was a great feeling," Williams said. "I feel like I'm supposed to be here. I'm part of a team now."
Williams is the Giants' rookie fourth-round pick out of Boston College. He led the nation in rushing last year, and they already love him as a runner -- and not just at the goal line. He still needs to work on catching the ball and on pass protection. He said he was in the game for two pass plays Sunday, but that no linebackers blitzed on those plays, so he didn't have anything to do. But with the ball in his hands, he was fun.