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Archive for Friday, December 3, 2004

Marvelous McGahee making return to Miami

Bills upstart running back eager for hometown trip

December 3, 2004

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— Don't let Willis McGahee's cool act fool you.

To hear the Bills running back tell it, this weekend's homecoming trip to Miami -- McGahee's first as an NFL player -- is just another ho-hum game on the schedule.

"No anticipation," McGahee said. "It's one of the opportunities I've been waiting on, but I'm not really going to focus on it."

McGahee's mom, Jannie Jones, knows her son better.

Jones saw a difference when McGahee made a brief trip earlier this week to Miami.

First he asked how many tickets she had purchased for the game. Then McGahee said to make sure to buy a few more for some friends she might have forgotten.

"That's when I knew he was excited," Jones said.

Why?

"Because he doesn't like to spend money," she said.

Jones has cut off ticket sales at 100, but she knows there will be plenty more people in the stands keeping a close eye on her son Sunday.

That's because McGahee has become one of the game's most intriguing stories.

The former Miami Hurricanes running back broke several school records as a sophomore in 2002 before blowing out his left knee in the national-championship game against Ohio State. After missing all of his rookie season in Buffalo last year, the first-round draft pick has, during the past two months, replaced Travis Henry as the starter, enjoyed five 100-yard rushing games and scored seven touchdowns, four in Sunday's 38-9 victory at Seattle.

Buffalo running back Willis McGahee (21) eludes New York Jets
defender David Barrett. McGahee, shown Nov. 7 in Orchard Park,
N.Y., will return to his hometown Sunday for a game against the
Miami Dolphins.

Buffalo running back Willis McGahee (21) eludes New York Jets defender David Barrett. McGahee, shown Nov. 7 in Orchard Park, N.Y., will return to his hometown Sunday for a game against the Miami Dolphins.

Talk about a perfect time to be heading home.

"Now we'll get to see him play at home after everybody said he wouldn't come back or he wouldn't be the same even if he did," Jones said. "And I think a lot of people can't wait ... because I think they're in for a treat."

McGahee already has been a treat for the Bills (5-6), electrifying a team that's suddenly on a roll, having won five of its last seven, all five wins with McGahee starting.

McGahee's been credited with revitalizing a sputtering offense, helping take the pressure off once-faltering quarterback Drew Bledsoe by providing a consistent running threat.

And his strong runs and ability to find holes have silenced criticism of an offensive line that's suddenly showing signs of jelling.

"I'm cool with it. I'm not complaining about nothing," McGahee said, referring to his impact. "I'm just here to do my job. You know it's not going to be here forever so I want to take advantage of it."

His teammates credit McGahee for making a significant impact.

"He's the spark that we definitely needed," fullback Daimon Shelton said.

"I'm excited," guard Chris Villarrial said. "I mean, the guy could've packed it in a long time ago. But he never let anybody tell him that he couldn't play anymore. And he's come in and proved it."

McGahee's seven touchdowns rushing match the number the Bills scored in their previous 18 games. He's the first Bills player to have five 100-yard games in his first season. And his four TDs against Seattle marked only the seventh time a Bills player scored that many in a game.

His first start, coincidentally, came against the Dolphins at Orchard Park, when he had 111 yards rushing filling in for an injured Henry in Buffalo's 20-13 victory Oct. 17. It was the Bills' first victory after an 0-4 start.

McGahee said he never anticipated enjoying this much success so soon. And that's one reason he never had this game circled on his calendar since the schedule came out last spring.

With a wink, McGahee said he didn't yet consider himself to be 100 percent.

"How close? It's close," McGahee said. "But you're really going to see it next year. This is just my introduction year."

What matters to Jannie Jones is that her son is back playing.

"It means the world to me," Jones said. "And I think he's better than he ever was."

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