EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey, Dec 9 (Reuters) - Rookie running back David Wilson found himself in the New York Giants dog house after fumbling in the opening game of the season and struggling to master pass protection assignments.
You could excuse the first-round draft pick for howling with delight on Sunday after a breakout game in which he dashed 97 yards for a touchdown with a kickoff return, and rushed for two more scores including a 52-yarder in a 52-27 romp over the New Orleans Saints.
"To come out and have a breakout game like this, it's an excellent feeling," said Wilson, taken with the 32nd pick overall from Virginia Tech.
Wilson said he understood he had to prove himself.
"I didn't have the greatest start for a rookie, and rookies have little room for error," Wilson told reporters after he set a Giants team record for total yards with 327, including 227 in return yards and 100 yards rushing from scrimmage.
"I was put in a position where I had to gain the coaches' trust again. I stuck with it and kept working. Working at meetings and working on the field and trying to regain the trust. I knew eventually my opportunity would come again."
Opportunity came in New York's 13th game of the season, after the confident Wilson moved up the depth chart following a season-ending injury to running back Andre Brown.
Wilson, who said earlier this season that he had Hall of Fame talent, made the most of his chance in a game desperately needed by the Super Bowl champion Giants (8-5), who were clinging to a one-game lead in the NFC East.
"Let's be honest, for a rookie he struggled at times with some of the protections and that type of thing, but it's never been anything that has had a negative effect on him in terms of his attitude," coach Tom Coughlin said.
"We needed a spark and we certainly got one. The timing is right."
Wilson worked hard on his technique to better hold on to the ball and accepted the importance coaches placed on running backs helping to protect two-time Super Bowl MVP quarterback Eli Manning when he drops back to pass.
"They did what they had to do," said Wilson. "This is a great organization with great coaches. They make the right decisions. It's the reason they win games."
Wilson, considered by many of his team mates to be the most athletic player on the Giants, celebrated two of his touchdowns with back flips in the end zone.
The speedy running back and returner has another celebration in mind.
"I wasn't here last year. I watched them win the Super Bowl on TV," said Wilson. "Then I got drafted to the them and I said I want to win a Super Bowl." (Editing by Patrick Johnston)