WR Joey Galloway is looking forward to suiting up for some real action on Saturday
It's a truism of the National Football League: speed kills
In a game where everyone from cornerbacks to offensive linemen possesses uncanny quickness, there's a premium on players with outright blinding speed. They can cause defenses to rewrite their playbooks the way Bob Hayes forced defenses in the 1960s to invent zone coverage. They can take away entire halves of the field the way Deion Sanders did in the 1990s. And they can change the nature of a position the way division foe Michael Vick has done at quarterback. There's one catch – it rarely lasts…unless of course you happen to be Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Joey Galloway, who is likely to see his first snaps of the preseason Saturday in Jacksonville.
At 34 years old – an age where many of the NFL's fastest players have long since lost a step – Galloway is still doing his best impersonation of the Flash. Last season, his 11th in the league, Galloway hauled in 83 balls for 1,287 yards – both career highs for the veteran receiver.
"It felt good, but it felt good to win, to get into the playoffs with this team," said Galloway on having rebounded from a groin injury during his first season with the Bucs that forced him to miss six games.
In fact, he rebounded so well last year, that along the way, he reached the 1,000-yard mark by his 11th game – faster than any other receiver in Buccaneers history. He also scored the most receiving touchdowns in a single season in team history, finding the end zone 10 times.
If Galloway has lost a step with age, opposing defenses aren't seeing it, and neither are his defensive teammates, many of whom have found themselves trailing the ageless speedster in practices throughout the summer. It's a helpless feeling for defensive backs – staring at the back of Galloway's jersey and sensing the football descending overhead. In practice, it's merely a learning experience for the unfortunate DB, but come game time against real opposition, it means ending up on the wrong side of the highlight reel – beaten, burned, toasted.
"You want to threaten the area that [the cornerback] is standing in," Galloway said. "You want to give him a move, and make him think you are going somewhere you're not, and then once he false steps, then that's when your chance is to get him."
That's the threat that is Joey Galloway, the fastest man not just on the team but in the league, if you ask him – an assertion not so much full of arrogance as confidence. And his ability to stretch the field is not only an invaluable dimension to the Bucs' passing game, it sets the table for their running game, forcing defenses to pull an eighth defender out of the box in an effort to provide coverage help.
"The ability to go downfield keeps the defensive backs a little bit more loose than normal," Galloway explained. "That's important for the running game, and on the flip side, the running game is important to the ability to stretch the field."
Galloway's secret to maintaining his world-class speed is simple: work, then work some more.
"I work at it; I work very hard at it," Galloway said. "In the offseason, my training regimen allows me to be fast. That's never changed, and as long as I continue to work at it, then I'll be fast."
That hard work has paid off. A major knee injury in 2000 forced him to miss the entire season but ultimately couldn't slow him down. Entering this season, Galloway is sixth among active players with 64 touchdowns and among the top 20 in career receptions with 550. He's compiled more than 10,000 all-purpose yards (8,501 receiving, 486 rushing, 1,332 punt return and 68 kickoff return). And for those that think he's merely a homerun hitter, Galloway showed last year that he can be a possession receiver as well, gaining nearly 500 receiving yards on third downs – second-best among all receivers.
"I think I just have an appreciation for playing the game," said Galloway of his accomplished career. "I think when you're young, you think you'll be around forever. Fortunately, I've been blessed to play as long as I have, and I appreciate every play, every season."
Even Saturday's preseason game? Galloway was quick with a response.
"I will be up," he said. "Anytime you take the field in competition, with your teammates, then of course you'd be up for that. I'm looking forward to it."
Even if Jacksonville's secondary isn't.