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Bob Ryan

Taking on all comers

Giants bruiser Jacobs never backs down

By Bob Ryan
Globe Columnist / February 3, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS - You want to meet a real, live football player?

Say hello to Brandon Jacobs, who will summarize happily what he loves about participating in this rather violent expression of manhood.

“It feels great to run over a grown man that doesn’t want you to,’’ he explains.

Subtlety is not a featured aspect of Jacobs’s game. At 6 feet 4 inches and a listed 265 pounds, he is among the larger men who have ever carried a football for a living in this league. As such, he would rather run over three men than attempt to run around one.

He isn’t even the certified feature back of the New York Giants, although you’d never know it from listening to him. It’s not that he doesn’t respect Ahmad Bradshaw, or doesn’t comprehend why he is part of a tandem at running back and not The Man. It’s just that by the way he carries and expresses himself, you’d assume you were conversing with Jim Brown, or somebody.

Some might even argue he has always promised more than he has delivered. You look at some of the stuff he does and you wonder why he isn’t a perennial All-Pro. “Brandon Jacobs is a freak,’’ maintains Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, “and I mean that in a very positive way. There aren’t many guys that big and strong who can run that fast. Once he clears the line of scrimmage, there aren’t many LBs or DBs who want to tackle him.’’

But since rushing for 1,089 yards (5.0 average) and 15 touchdowns in 2008, he has had far more modest numbers. This season, for example, he rushed for 3.8 yards per carry and scored seven touchdowns.

Now he has scored 56 career rushing touchdowns, and that happens to be the most any Giant has had in their long, rich history. The obvious reason, of course, is that the man is ideally suited to get that tough yard or two around the goal line.

At this point in his career he is equally famous for what he says as for what he does. He is known far and wide for speaking his mind. Witness the little firestorm he created in the aftermath of a midseason loss to the Eagles, when he said of the home crowd at MetLife Stadium, “The best thing they do here is boo.’’

You can’t say something like that in New York and think it will go unnoticed. The feisty tabloids framed the outburst as Jacobs officially taking on the fans, making it seem as if he was asking each and every patron to step outside. Given his aforementioned lack of big-time production, the statement did not go down well.

Only one guess is necessary to identify his current reaction to the contretemps. “It got out of hand,’’ he says. “I never meant for it to happen. I wasn’t really talking bad to our fans.’’ And, of course, “People blew it out of proportion.’’

Anyway, it was good for a few days of tabloid headlines.

Jacobs came out of football-crazed Louisiana with credentials that included 3,032 yards and 35 touchdowns and a 215-yards-per-game average at Napoleonville High School. His subsequent path to the fourth round of the 2005 NFL draft included stops at Coffeyville Community College, Auburn, and Southern Illinois.

The one constant in his résumé is that, in addition to gaining yards and scoring touchdowns, he creates memories and conversation. He is quite a YouTube sensation. Check out some of his touchdown runs. Check out a spectacular clip of him getting past the line of scrimmage and treating the vaunted Brian Urlacher as if he were some 165-pound JV defensive back. One lowering of the Jacobs shoulder and the great Chicago linebacker is sent stumbling 3 or 4 yards backward before falling to the turf.

Best of all, check out YouTube for his starring role in an ESPN Sports Science episode. The goal was to determine the actual force with which an onrushing Jacobs hits a would-be tackler. It turns out he hits significantly harder than a rampaging bull.

He sees football as a hit-or-be-hit game, and so he has a dislike bordering on contempt for people who try to avoid the game’s essence. He has particular scorn for the countless defensive backs who eschew actual tackling in favor of shoulder-rolling ball carriers and/or pass receivers.

“I look at every secondary as the same,’’ he says. “None of ’em really want to tackle. That’s true on every football team. C’mon, get some guys who want to stick it.’’

(I guess that if members of his own secondary take offense, his response would be “tough,’’ or perhaps something a bit more colorful.)

Back home in Louisiana, he was a boxer. Now there’s a surprise.

“I was 35-2, and won two state amateur titles,’’ he points out. Asked if boxing and football were comparable, he answered emphatically.

“No,’’ he bellows. “Absolutely not. Two wholly different sports. In boxing, you need more determination. You’re all by yourself. In football, one person cannot be successful without other people.’’

As far as Super Bowl XLVI is concerned, the veteran of Super Bowl XLII has this to say: “The first team we had, we didn’t know we could do it. This team, we know we can do it.’’

One thought: Doesn’t all this macho talk from this hulking man suggest he would have been better suited to be on the other side of the ball, where he could really hit people?

“Nah,’’ he says. “I had one play at defensive end in high school. I hit the quarterback 12 seconds after he threw the ball and they took me out.’’

Defensive coordinators all over this great land of ours mourn a colossal lost opportunity.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on Boston.com. He can be reached at ryan@globe.com.

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