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Sports

January 22, 2008

Back in the saddle; Once-maligned Maroney driving undefeated Pats

FOXBORO - At Manny's Steakhouse, one of the priciest restaurants in Minneapolis, University of Minnesota recruit Laurence Maroney didn't even consider a Porterhouse or a New York Strip.



Glen Mason, then the Golden Gophers football coach, was shocked. The future star, in town on his official visit to U of M, wanted a hamburger.



So Mason told a waiter to makeone by grinding up a filet mignon and putting it on a bun. Maroney grinned as he ate the creation.



"He's just a regular guy," said Vic Adamle, Maroney's running backs coach at Minnesota.



Six years later, the 5-foot-11, 220-pound tailback is still smiling. Sunday, he ground up the Chargers defense into low-grade chuck, rushing for 122 yards on 25 carries.



"I thought he was on top of his game, no question about it," Adamle said. "Making people miss, accelerating."



That kind of explosiveness made Maroney, who missed three games this season with a groin injury, a two-time All-Big 10 back at Minnesota.



"He could make a cut and be at full speed so fast," Adamle said, "I'd never seen anybody like it."



But is he soft and tender like a filet? Is he afraid to run between the tackles? No way, Adamle said. Maroney's playoff numbers (47 carries, 244 yards, 2 touchdowns) seem to prove otherwise.



"With the cold and windy conditions, it's tougher to consistently pass the ball," Adamle said. "You've got to have a running game."



Despite a nondescript regular season (185 carries, 835 yards, 6 touchdowns), Maroney was indispensable at Gillette Stadium this month.



"All year long, we heard the question about not having a running game," said fellow back Kevin Faulk, who was also spectacular (8 catches, 82 yards) Sunday. "All I told Laurence was, 'Be patient; your time is going to come and your opportunity is going to come to move this team forward."



It's no surprise to Adamle, who watched Maroney rack up 3,933 career rushing yards, the second highest total in Minnesota history.



"He always had the mentality that he would run hard if the situation called for it," Adamle said of Maroney. "He was a tough runner, not just a guy looking to make a million cuts. I never had any doubt he could be a pour-it-up-in-there back. That's what he's been doing during the last couple of games in the playoffs."



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