On Jan. 8, the New York Giants made their first postseason appearance since winning Super Bowl XLVI. They traveled to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers in a rematch of both the 2007 NFC Championship Game and 2011 Divisional Playoff, both won by the Giants.
The Giants were completely incinerated, 38-13.
The next night, the Alabama Crimson Tide and Clemson Tigers met in the College Football Playoff National Championship at Raymond James Stadium. This game was a rematch of the 2016 title game won 45-40 by Alabama. The 2017 edition of the CFP National Championship was the first rematch between teams ranked No. 1 (Alabama) and No. 2 (Clemson).
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The CFP National Championship was more exciting than anything the Giants and Packers did the night before. Clemson won 35-31, scoring the go-ahead touchdown with one second left on the clock. It was the first consensus national championship for the Tigers since 1981.
The game was significant for pro scouts. Sixteen players from both teams (10 from Alabama, six from Clemson) were selected in the 2017 NFL Draft.
The Giants selected a player from each side: Alabama defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson and Clemson running back Wayne Gallman. They were on the same field for the first time as teammates at the Giants rookie mini-camp last weekend.
Tomlinson reminisced about the national championship games he took part in with Gallman.
“We were just talking about that yesterday, as a matter of fact,” Tomlinson said in an interview. “It’s pretty crazy, simply because of our run defense, and their offense, and things like that. We were talking about things we both could’ve done differently both of those years.”
Tomlinson, who had five tackles in the two national title games, was also asked if he ever tackled Gallman.
“Yes, I tackled him a couple of times,” he said.
Gallman rushed for 91 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries in both title games. He was the leading rusher on both Clemson squads that made it to the national title game. Gallman believes his versatility and championship pedigree will benefit the Giants.
“To bring that championship quality,” Gallman said. “I believe I can help them win championships. The Super Bowl, of course…for my game, I just think I’m a guy that can pretty much do anything a team needs. Whether that’s contributing on special teams or getting reps at running back. I’m going to do the best I can at anything I do.”
Tomlinson is expected to fill in the starting spot vacated by Johnathan Hankins’ free agent departure to the Indianapolis Colts. Head coach Ben McAdoo already announced that Paul Perkins will be the starting running back with Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen also on the depth chart. Gallman’s best shot at making the 53-man roster will be the special teams route.
“Running backs have a good skillset for special teams,” special teams coordinator Tom Quinn said. “They have the speed and the size. We like these running backs on special teams.”
Before Gallman can contribute on special teams or get reps at running back, he must get acquainted with the playbook.
“Learning this playbook,” Gallman said. “It’s a really in-depth playbook. I see the difference. If you want to come and play here, of course, you have to play special teams, but before you make that contribution, you have to learn that playbook.”
Tomlinson faces the same learning curve. McAdoo thinks he has an upper hand in getting accustomed to the NFL.
“He’s more athletic than he gets credit for,” McAdoo said. “And you know I think it’s an advantage for guys coming out that have played different sports and haven’t just been a one-sport guy.”
Tomlinson was an all-state wrestler in high school and also played soccer. He credits both sports with making him a better football player.
“I feel like wrestling had the biggest impact because of the leverage you learn in wrestling and the mental toughness it takes to be a wrestler because wrestling is one of the most mentally draining sports,” Tomlinson said. “Just the toughness that it takes to do that sport day in and day out is just one of the hardest things to do. In soccer, I think the endurance side of just running up and down the field all day, every day will get you in shape.”