They come into NFL training camps with nothing but high hopes of making the 53-player final roster. Some are so little known that you can’t even find them on Google.
These are the undrafted rookie “camp bodies” who are considered to be little more than mobile blocking sleds and tackling dummies. Their names are crudely taped to the front of their helmets.
A Lions Tradition is Born
Two years ago, an unknown DB named Randy Phillips burst upon the training camp scene with a combination of work ethic and playmaking that made him a standout. Phillips became the Lions fans' pet cat.
Phillips was ultimately cut, but was signed to the practice squad. This gave me an idea: Shouldn’t we honor Phillips, who defied long odds to make the team, with an award?
The Randy Phillips UDFA Camp Stud Award was born.
Last year, there was a spirited competition between MLB Cobrani Mixon, WR Demario Ballard and SS Ricardo Silva. Mixon never stood a chance behind newly acquired veteran Stephen Tulloch and veteran backup Ashlee Palmer.
Ballard had the look of Calvin Johnson, albeit ever so briefly. When the Lions signed free-agent WR Maurice Stovall, Ballard got the ax.
That left Silva, who outplayed veteran free agent Erik Coleman during training camp in the opinion of Lions fans. Alas, Silva would be a late cut, who, like Randy Phillips, would be signed to the practice squad.
Silva became the first recipient of the “Randy.” The winner of this prestigious award receives an all-expense paid trip to the practice squad and the renewed hope that he might someday crack the roster.
So who would win the award in 2012? The Lions, with a training camp roster bloated to 90 players, brought in 19 UDFAs for a look-see. They were cut early and often during camp, but three emerged from the rabble. The “Randy” hopefuls were:
LB Carmen Messina (New Mexico)
Messina had a great camp and turned quite a few heads. Messina bravely faced the challenge of beating out second-year veteran Doug Hogue and drafted rookies Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis. Inconsistency and the numbers worked against him, however, and he became one of the Lions' final roster cuts.
While an invitation to join the Lions' practice squad remains a possibility for Messina, he will ultimately be our second runner-up.
WR Patrick Edwards (Houston)
Edwards was a walk-on at Houston and a late UDFA invitee to the Lions' training camp. He looked very competitive during camp, catching everything in his zip code.
But Edwards had a Derek Williams (remember him?) habit of dropping balls in the exhibition season. Then, like Williams, Edwards decided to fair-catch a punt at the three-yard line.
Edwards showed enough promise that he will likely be re-signed to the practice squad. Edwards was the final roster cut, so he becomes our runner-up.
And the winner of the “Randy” is…
QB Kellen Moore (Boise State)
Moore’s preseason journey was rocky. I’ve been reminded 2,149 times that mini-Moore posted a record of 50-3 for the Broncos and almost single-handedly became the 2011 BCS “buster.”
There were fleeting moments when I was certain that Moore’s release was imminent. His QB rating after his preseason debut against Cleveland was 9.8.
But Moore rallied nicely, and by the end of the final preseason game against Buffalo, he looked to be much more comfortable and finally took command of the offense.
While Moore will not make Lions fans forget QB Drew Stanton anytime soon, it’s clear that the Lions coaching staff will continue to cling for dear life to a three-QB system.
So here’s to you, Kellen Moore! May your reign bring you all the success that you so richly deserve, even if it is on the practice squad.
Our “Randy” winner, QB Kellen Moore, was forced to relinquish his all-expense paid trip to the practice squad. He actually made the 53-man roster.
As a result, our blue-ribbon panel has given two grand prizes—to our runner-up, Patrick Edwards, and second runner-up, Carmen Messina.
Congratulations to our winners!