Years ago, a league's worth of fantasy football owners gathered at a barbecue joint to take in the first preseason Monday Night Football game. The New England Patriots were visiting the San Francisco 49ers.
In the second quarter, lightning jumped into a bottle.
Kevin Faulk, a young change-of-pace back for the Patriots, had gotten a steady diet of touches throughout the first half. Just before halftime, Faulk took a short pass from quarterback Michael Bishop and slashed and burned through the 49ers defense. Faulk finished his scintillating 25-yard scamper by high-stepping into the end zone.
By the time the second half kicked off, most of that fantasy football league had paid their checks—and doodled hearts and stars around Faulk's name in their fantasy cheat sheets.
In 2000, YouTube hadn't been invented yet, so the Internet remembers only the box score of that game. As you, dear reader, might have guessed, your humble columnist was seated at that table full of astounded fantasy owners.
That night, a preseason star was born.
Every training camp and preseason, there are shooting stars like these; "breakout" players who make local (or national!) headlines by making the most of their limited opportunity. With second- and third-string players getting extended playing time against each other, talents who've seen little spotlight are suddenly center stage.
Who will be this year's shooting stars? I picked one for every position on the field.
No 2013 first- or second-round draft picks are on this list, as fans and media alike remember these players from the draft, and know their potential well. Instead, these potential camp standouts and preseason stars are later-round rookies, or talented second- and third-year players who aren't regular starters yet.
Faulk went on to serve as a decent utility back for the Patriots, and he played for 13 seasons—a feat few players accomplish. That 2000 preseason, though, was the only time in Faulk's career he looked capable of greatness.
Here are the likeliest NFL late-summer stars at every position this season.* Whether they go on to achieve autumn or winter success is anyone's guess.
*There's a nominee for every position except fullback, as few teams use a full-time fullback, almost none will heavily feature a youngster this season, and even perennial stars at the position rarely "break out" or become household names.