We won’t have preseason games this year, which means we’ll miss out on what could be the only redeeming aspect of preseason games for most fans: the preseason hero.
You know him: the guy who signs on as an undrafted free agent out of Southwest Montana A&M Tech only to post a couple of spectacular plays that get everybody buzzing. Maybe he picks off a pass in amazing fashion. Maybe he houses a punt return. Maybe he’s just really fast! It could be any combination of things or just one shining moment that fans will remember years later and wonder “hey, what happened to that guy?”
Well, most of the time he just disappears, an NFL player in memory only. But sometimes he develops into something special.
Whatever the case, here are our favorite preseason heroes.
Rcon14: Ladarius Gunter
I honestly don’t remember a whole lot from most pre-seasons. At least not specifically enough to remember who the standouts really were. I do, for some reason, remember Ladarius Gunter having a good pre-season. His insane length was a problem for a lot of the mediocre athletes that make up the second halves of pre-season games.
Tex Western: Josh Jackson & Kregg Lumpkin
Remember two years ago when Jackson lit up the preseason as a rookie? It looked like Jackson, the second-round draft pick out of Iowa, was going to be the star corner to come out of the 2018 draft instead of first-rounder Jaire Alexander. After a nice debut, Jackson baited Pittsburgh’s Josh Dobbs into a poor decision in the second preseason game, jumping the route and taking the football back for a pick-six. Jackson also showed some encouraging punt return ability that preseason as well, with a big 41-yard return in that same game. Then the regular season happened, and since then Jackson has struggled to find the field consistently on defense. But for that brief glimpse in the preseason, Jackson looked like the ball-hawk he was at Iowa.
On the other side of the football is running back Kregg Lumpkin, who was largely a practice squad and training camp mainstay for the Packers for about three years. He was in Packers camp from 2008 through 2010 and was always earning carries with the third team. Was he good? Not really. But he had a fun name and he scored a bunch of preseason touchdowns, which is pretty fun. He even ended up having a nice season with the Buccaneers in 2011 when he played all 16 games and totaled about 400 yards from scrimmage!
Paul Noonan: Herbert “Whisper” Goodman
Much could be written of the preseason backfield of 2001 featuring De’Mond Parker and Herbert James “Whisper” Goodman. Goodman served as a workhorse in a few games culminating in an inefficient but voluminous 16 carry, 65-yard performance against Miami. He also added 3 catches for 2 yards. Goodman wasn’t really any good, and wasn’t around very long, but I always loved how the announcers really hammered the “wh” in whisper over, and over, and over.
I also like Whisper as he did have a cup of coffee with the real team, finishing his career with 4 carries for -3 yards, and 1 catch for 1 yard, a statline that is amazing enough to warrant some attention. Whisper came out of tiny Graceland college in Iowa and had an undistinguished career as an MMA fighter after the fact, putting him on the shortlist for great 2-sport athletes.
Shawn Wagner: Tramon Williams
The Packers originally picked up Williams during the 2006 season after being released by the Houston Texans and spent the rest of the season on the practice squad. But Williams earned a 53-man spot in Green Bay during the 2007 training camp after an impressive summer as an underdog and never looked back. He even became my favorite player after that preseason and I happened to be at Lambeau Field to witness his stellar Family Night performance. Two years later, Williams would intercept five passes during the regular season and eventually become an integral member of the Packers’ Super Bowl championship. But I still remember that particular training camp in which Williams, being a long-shot, opened many eyes to the point it was clear he should be given a chance.
Jon Meerdink: Marc Tyler
Most of the players are on this list because of what they accomplished. I remember Marc Tyler because of what he didn’t accomplish. Which was anything. Marc Tyler didn’t do anything for the Packers in the 2012 preseason.
That probably sounds pretty mean, so let me explain. The 2012 preseason was dismal, at least as far as the Packers’ running backs were concerned. Eddie Lacy was a year away. Both James Starks and Alex Green were banged up. DuJuan Harris wasn’t a thing yet, and Cedric Benson was still unsigned. But the Packers still needed someone to carry the ball, so they turned to Marc Tyler, an undrafted rookie out of USC who posted a blistering 40-yard dash time of 4.70 seconds at the 2012 NFL Combine.
It was immediately clear that Tyler’s game speed wasn’t any better than his timed speed. From his first carry he looked out of his depth...and then they gave him 44 more. Only one player in the entire NFL had more rushing attempts than Tyler’s 45 that preseason. And what did he accomplish with those carries? 105 total yards and one touchdown with a long carry of nine. That’s an average of 2.3 yards per carry, only slightly more than the 5-11 Tyler would have averaged had he just walked to the line of scrimmage and fallen forward 45 times.
I don’t know how Tyler felt about that preseason, but he surely knew he wasn’t getting the job done. Still, he went out and slammed into the line for each of those 45 carries, doing his best, knowing that no other running back help was coming. For that reason, I’ll always remember Marc Tyler.