TAMPA -- One great and crucial player is being overlooked here in Super Bowl XXV. But that's as it should be. Ottis Jerome Anderson always has been overlooked.

This week Giants Coach Bill Parcells said flatly: "Ottis Anderson belongs in the Hall of Fame. He's got too many pelts on his wall not to be there."

Jaws dropped, including Anderson's. "The only way I'm going to the Hall of Fame is if Bill drives me," he said. "I don't see me going any time soon."

Of course, this is what you'd expect of Anderson. When asked if he were going to write an autobiography, he said: "Get a life. What am I going to talk about?"

Anderson might talk about his 12-year career, except that he appears not to have been informed of it. In NFL history only eight men have rushed for 10,000 yards: Walter Payton, Tony Dorsett, Jim Brown, Franco Harris, Eric Dickerson, John Riggins and O.J. Simpson. And, yes, Anderson -- the "other" O.J. He's right behind Simpson.

To a large degree, this Super Bowl revolves around the Giants' ability to run the ball and, thus, control the clock and the score. Few believe they can throw. Even Parcells said, "We can't beat the Bills in a shootout." With Rodney Hampton hurt, every Bills defender falls to sleep at night with but one thought: Squeeze the Juice.

Anderson may fail, but he won't fret. To him, worry isn't the Super Bowl. It's making the team every year. He's been left vulnerable on Plan B so often that he said: "I started saying I was on Plan C. Now I'm on Plan Z."

In '87, Anderson only carried the ball twice all season. The next training camp, he figured, "I'm outta here. They put me on the top floor of a dorm with rookies and free agents. Seems like they started from the top and worked down. They cleaned out my part real quick. Every night I locked my door and put a chair against it. They were going to have to take my play book."

Anderson laughes at himself, looks people in the eye, smells the roses and doesn't seem bothered that his one day of nationwide fame, or infamy, will come when it is widely assumed that he's too old, too slow and too much the object of the Bills attention to succeed.

Maybe the 34-year-old, who still plays at 225 pounds, takes solice in knowing that he's already dumbfounded every expert. In 1989, after virtually disappearing from the sport with only 259 carries in four years, he was forced back into heavy duty by injuries and gained 1,023 yards. Comeback player of the year was a foregone conclusion. This year, sharing time until late-season catastrophes made him the hub of the offense, he gained 784 yards.

The symbolic moment of Ottis Anderson's rebirth came in training camp in '90 when Hampton, a rookie, asked Anderson if he were any relation to the great O.J. Anderson of the St. Louis Cardinals. "That's me," said Anderson, assuming Hampton was teasing him.

"You're not him. O.J. Anderson was my {boyhood} hero," said Hampton, even pulling out an old football card of Anderson with a huge afro hairdo.

In sense, Ottis Anderson isn't that O.J. Anderson. Time and thousands of hits stole those skills from him. There's a bald spot where the afro used to be. In his first five full seasons (excluding the strike year of 1982), Anderson averaged 1,355 yards rushing and 1,770 total yards per season. That's exactly the current level of Bills' star Thurman Thomas.

You could say that Anderson is trying to beat the shadow of himself. That's not how he sees it. Anderson may be the only player here who has played so long, endured so much and written himself off so many times that he has nothing left to fear. "Sunday will be fun. To have a football in my hands, it's easy to me, relaxing, because I enjoy it. I'm a runner. Just give me the ball."

There is no brag in Anderson's words. He points to an interview table where a little-known Giant is sitting almost alone. "That was me at the {'87} Super Bowl," chuckled Anderson, who was a backup then.

It's doubtful that there's anybody else at this Super Bowl with Anderson's gentle perspective on himself and his sport. Many NFL players put on the most ferocious false fronts in sports. Hey, it's the good old all-American NFL. Tatoos, muscle shirts, wide-brimmed hats, punk spike haircuts, ponytails, tangled mangy hair to the shoulder, pirate earrings, wraparound reflector sunglasses, gold-and-diamond bracelets and chains. What a parody.

Where do they get those guys for the United Way and Just Say No commercials? Not too many from these two teams. One Giant linebacker, asked his college fraternity, said, "Me Phi Me." A couple of Bills complained that the league wouldn't let them paint their faces like heavy metal rockers before the game.

Who are they trying to scare? Each other, obviously. Anything to hide how worried they are -- about pain, injury, age, failure, job insecurity.

Anderson has had all the requisite pain and injury. His own coach says, "He's older than dirt." He's lost his starting job many times and lived with little-or-no security for six years. "Anybody in this league past five years is a survivor," Anderson said.

Long ago, Anderson was called the imitation O.J. -- a phony. That still hurts. "O.J. Simpson -- he's the one and only," said Anderson. "I never called myself O.J. . . . I did sign my name 'O.J.' starting in junior high. . . . When I got to Miami, somebody said, 'We got the new Juice in town.' So, it started. . . . But my middle name is Jerome. I didn't just throw the J in there to look good. It's for real."

Now, ironically, Anderson and Simpson are friends. "We hang out together," said Anderson. "When people say, 'O.J.,' we both turn around."

Sounds like a potential commercial. Except that when the two men turned around, almost everyone in America would know O.J. Simpson (11,236 yards) while O.J. Anderson (10,101 yards) might as well be the bartender.

Anderson has one consolation. On Sunday, he'll become the only "O.J." who ever started in the Super Bowl. And maybe stars in one too.