On the Block

As a newcomer to the Giants, Madison Hedgecock made an immediate impression on center Shaun O'Hara in a wide variety of ways.

His accent: "The minute you talk to him you can get a pretty good read on where he's from and what he's all about,'' O'Hara said.

His ability: "You turn on the film and see what he's doing on some linebackers, he's a real big part of why we've had success,'' O'Hara said.

His personality: "We really like his demeanor, he's a fiery guy, he's aggressive,'' O'Hara said. "We've had a couple of instances when he gets a little over-fired up and we had to kind of settle him down a little bit and let him know we're on his team.''

His name: "He's got a great name for a fullback,'' O'Hara observed.

There is no way anyone named Madison Hedgecock should be anything other than what he is, which is a hard-driving fullback who fills the role of a lead blocker with a devilish glint in his eyes.

"You got to be kind of a bully, I guess,'' Hedgecock said. "It's a hard position to play, you don't get a lot of glory, you got to do the stuff that a normal person wouldn't necessarily find glory in it. That's what makes it a special position. You have to go in there and pretty much be like a kamikaze, throw yourself in for some other guy getting the glory.''

Hedgecock was signed by the Giants on Sept. 12 after the Rams cut him one game into the season. It was no secret the Giants were searching high and low for a replacement for Jim Finn, who manned the fullback spot the past four years. Even before Finn was lost for the season with a shoulder injury, the Giants were trying to find a younger, more powerful player to put in his place. In the offseason they signed Vonta Leach to an offer sheet but the Texans eventually matched it. The Giants tried an untested newcomer named Robert Douglas, who was doing a decent job filling in before he was placed on injured reserve.

"We coveted a fullback, that's what makes most teams go, have a big, strong fullback who can block and catch the ball and this guy can do that,'' general manager Jerry Reese said. "In the offseason we went after a couple of fullbacks, we wanted to put a power run game out there and this guy fell in our lap. He's done everything we asked him to do. It's hard to find those guys like him. They're like dinosaurs, the big, strong fullbacks who can go in there and knock those linebackers out of there and catch the ball out of the flat and get some yards that way.

"We knew about Madison Hedgecock a long time ago. We liked him coming out of college, we try and wait for the right time to pick a guy like him and it never worked out.''

Hedgecock played as much defensive end in college at North Carolina as he did fullback and at 6-3, 266, he certainly looks the part of a DE as well. The Rams took him in the seventh round of the 2005 NFL Draft and Hedgecock played a large role in helping Steven Jackson establish himself as a bona fide NFL running back.

"I played hurt last year in St. Louis,'' Hedgecock said. "I had a broken thumb and high ankle sprain the whole year. That was a tough year for me to do good. Then they just got rid of me, out of the blue. They pretty much did me wrong in St. Louis.''

Hedgecock may have had his best blocking game of the season in Chicago. He obliterated Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer on Derrick Ward's two-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and on the very next first down, Ward raced inside Hedgecock en route to a 33-yard gain.

"He did a nice job of searching it out and finding the people who he was responsible for and not only getting in position, but sticking with the blocks, sustaining the blocks and finishing the play,'' Tom Coughlin said.

On occasion, the Giants will throw the ball to the fullback but not often and they never, ever, hand the ball to him in the running game. He's almost exclusively a lead blocker.

"He's not scared to mix it up,'' guard Chris Snee said. "He definitely wants the contact.''

Hedgecock proudly insists "I'm not from the boonies'' and explains in a voice that gives himself away that he grew up in a town named Wallburg, just outside of Winston-Salem, in the middle of the North Carolina Triad that also includes cities Greensboro and High Point.

"It's not like in the middle of nowhere,'' he says. "It's not like I never seen a car before or a city or that I ride a horse to school. But I do have a pickup truck and I live on a farm.''

What at first appeared to be a simple look-see turned into a commitment, as Reese last month secured Hedgecock with a five-year, $5.5 million contract that includes $1.2 million in bonus money.

"He has all the skill sets you want in a fullback,'' Reese said. "For us to lock him up for a few years is the right situation for us.''

It's the right situation for Hedgecock as well.

"It's how I make a living so it's definitely good to get paid for it, to get acknowledged for doing good,'' Hedgecock said. "Nobody's going to like to block, but you're going to like seeing that tailback go down the field 30 yards. You're sharing in his glory. That's what I do. It's behind the scenes. It's tough to get noticed unless somebody's actually looking.''

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