Last year rookie receiver/return man Randall Cobb made his Green Bay Packers regular-season debut with a pair of touchdowns. It was the first time since Javon Walker in 2002 that a Packers rookie scored a touchdown in the team’s first game of the season.
In addition to Cobb, six other rookies scored a touchdown in their team’s first game last year: Doug Baldwin (Seattle), A.J. Green (Cincinnati), Cam Newton (Carolina), Ben Tate (Houston), Ryan Kerrigan (Washington) and Patrick Petersen (Arizona).
Since 1960, there have been 276 rookies that scored a touchdown in their team’s first game, an average of just over five per season. The most in a season was 11 in 1969—a group that included O.J. Simpson and Roger Staubach.
In looking at stats from the past 25 NFL seasons, there have been 131 rookies that have accomplished the feat. It has proven to be a good omen, as those teams have won 90 and lost 41 in those games, a .687 winning percentage.
Since 1987, the Detroit Lions and New York Giants have each had nine different rookies score a TD in the team’s opening game. Below are the number of times it has happened for each team in the last 25 years.
Rookies with a TD in the opening game (since 1987), Teams
1: Houston, N.Y Jets
Three different teams have not had a rookie score a TD in the opening game this century. The longest drought is in Philadelphia (1993); Atlanta has not had a rookie score in the first game since 1998; the Rams have not had one since 1999.
One final note: 17 different members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame scored a touchdown as a rookie in their team’s first game of their rookie season (since 1960): Marcus Allen, Lem Barney, Earl Campbell, Marshall Faulk, Bob Hayes, Michael Irvin, John Mackey, Curtis Martin, Ozzie Newsome, Barry Sanders, Deion Sanders, O.J. Simpson, Roger Staubach, Lynn Swann, Fran Tarkenton, Charley Taylor, Thurman Thomas.
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