Ryan Grant: All Because of a Screen Pass
Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant stands as a prime example of what happens when you make the best of every opportunity. Grant was picked off of the proverbial scrap heap of the NFL by the Packers for a conditional sixth-round draft pick from the New York Giants in the beginning of the 2007-2008 season and has since been one of the most productive rushers in the NFL.
However, if it had not been for a 21-yard screen pass against the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants in Week Two of the 2007-2008 season, Grant may be out of football this season instead of starting for the Packers.
Green Bay and New York were scoreless in the early goings of the second quarter, and the Packers needed a spark. Then-quarterback Brett Favre had just thrown an interception to Gibril Wilson on the last series, and the running game behind rookies DeShawn Wynn and Brandon Jackson was largely inept.
The Packers' defense forced a quick three-and-out after the Wilson interception, and Favre stepped back onto the field with 10 men in hopes of putting seven on the board.
Tailback DeShawn Wynn had just lost five yards on a run, and visions of the Week One victory over the Philadelphia Eagles were apparent. In the 16-13 victory, the Packers rushed 17 times for an average of 2.7 yards per carry behind Wynn and Jackson.
Green Bay found a quick spark in the form of a 46-yard reception from rookie wide receiver James Jones, and Favre hurried the Packers to the line as tailback Brandon Jackson squandered a large hole opened up by the offensive line in return for a two-yard gain.
Patience was running thin, as Head Coach Mike McCarthy looked up and down his sideline for an able-bodied running back who would take advantage of the opportunity to be Brett Favre's running back. McCarthy called upon Grant, who was acquired just two weeks earlier, to execute a screen pass.
And, with that, Ryan Grant smelled his first opportunity as a Packer. Heading into the huddle, Grant executed the screen pass to perfection, with the help of some keen blocking and a smart cutback.
The play ran for 21 yards and put the Packers inside the 10-yard line of the Giants, and two plays later, Wynn would run in the first of his two touchdowns, en route to a Packer victory.
Grant only played that one snap, but his impact was surely felt. Once the Packers realized the disappointment in which second-round pick Brandon Jackson had been, and seventh-round selection DeShawn Wynn went down to injury, running backs coach Edgar Bennett called upon Grant to shoulder the load.
Taking advantage of his second opportunity, Grant entered into the Packers' contest against the Denver Broncos following Wynn's injury and rushed for 109 yards as Green Bay won a dramatic 19-13 overtime game.
He never looked back.
In the following weeks, Grant showed the Packers and the rest of the NFL exactly what he was made of—ability. Rewarded with a four-year extension in the offseason, Grant stands tall as an example of what hard work in practice and making the most of opportunities can do for an athlete.
Grant's college coach, Ty Willingham, said it best.
"Ryan really wants to be a great player," Willingham said, "and he works every day toward that goal."
While his holdout in the beginning of the 2008-2009 season impeded upon his play in the first half the season, many have already bailed upon Grant as the true answer to the Packers rushing game.
However, for those who know what Ryan Grant is made of know that he will certainly go out on his own terms.
And when Grant does catch fire in his second season with the Packers, it could put the Packers onto a crash-course ending in Tampa Bay, FL in February.
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