The Hall of Fame Game is 33 days away…
This season, if you go to Giants.com and look at the team roster page, you’ll notice that Peyton Hillis has been designated to number 33. Last season, Peyton Hillis (click for Pro Football Reference stats) wore number 44 on his way to 343 yards from scrimmage and two GIANT touchdowns. This year rookie Andre Williams will suit up with fo-fo.
Peyton Hillis will be in a fight during training camp to make the squad. But with the questions surrounding David Wilson and his recovery from a neck injury, Hillis has a decent opportunity to revitalize a career that once had him featured on the cover of Madden as a Cleveland Brown.
Does that make Hillis the best #33 in Giants history? Not quite. After all, in the 1950’s, Mel Triplett wore number 33… in an interesting tidbit from his wikipedia page, it claims Triplett influenced a legendary NBA star’s jersey number selection:
Among the fans of Mel Triplett during his days on the New York Giants was a young basketball player in New York named Lew Alcindor, later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Abdul-Jabbar says in his 1983 memoir Giant Steps that it was largely Triplett’s wearing of uniform #33 that made Abdul-Jabbar adopt #33 as well, a number he made famous.
Triplett was a special player, one who once scored the opening touchdown in a Giants championship win. He was also named the games most outstanding player. Unfortunately, these days, Mel is no longer with us. Here is a snippet from his obituary written in 2002 by the New York Times titled, Mel Triplett, 71; Helped Giants Win ’56 Title:
Mel Triplett, the fullback for the Giants’ 1956 National Football League champions, died Thursday in a nursing home in Toledo, Ohio. He was 71.
He died of complications from diabetes, a daughter, Teresa Triplett-Smith, said.
The 1956 final was a memorable game in which the Giants wore white sneakers on Yankee Stadium’s frozen turf while the Chicago Bears skidded around on cleats.
In 1996, at a 40th anniversary celebration of that championship, Sam Huff, the Giants’ Hall of Fame middle linebacker, recalled Triplett’s 17-yard run in the game.
”He ran a trap in the middle,” Huff told The New York Times, ”and with his head down he went straight over an official and into the end zone for our first touchdown.”
The Giants went on to a 47-7 victory and Triplett was voted the Giants’ offensive player of the game. Jim Lee Howell, the Giants’ coach, said, ”Without Triplett’s blocking, a lot of our plays wouldn’t have worked.”
One of the reasons we have a Hall of Fame or Hall of Fame Game is due to someone mentioned in that article and often considered solely a Green Bay Packers legend — Vince Lombardi. The article goes on to bring up a story of how Triplett was the only man to ever stand up to Lombardi. It goes like this, according to Giants legend, Frank Gifford:
”Mel Triplett is the only man I ever knew who made Vince Lombardi back down,” Gifford once recalled. ”Vince kept running a play over and over, saying: ‘You missed that block, Triplett.’ ‘You missed that block, Triplett.’ ‘You missed that block, Triplett.’ After the third time, Mel growled, ‘Don’t run that no more.’ Vince didn’t.”
That’s such a cool story. While any Giant player that ever wears 33 will have a tough hill to climb reaching the upper echelon career of Mel Triplett, Giants Nation can still take solace in the idea that’s there’s only 33 days left until the Hall of Fame game kicks off.
Is it football season yet?