As an undrafted free agent, running back John Crockett needs every rep he can get in his push to make the Green Bay Packers’ roster.
So, as he sat at his locker with a walking boot on his left foot on Thursday, you couldn’t have blamed Crockett if he was feeling dejected about missing the final day of the Packers’ minicamp.
But that’s not Crockett’s personality. He wasn’t depressed about going undrafted, despite big-time production and three national championships at North Dakota State and a strong performance at the Scouting Combine, and he wasn’t depressed about a sprained ankle, either.
“At the end of the day, it’s better to get it out of the way now where we have this little bit of time off,” Crockett said.
Crockett was injured midway through Tuesday’s first minicamp practice as he ran a deep route up the right sideline against linebacker Jake Ryan. X-rays showed there were no broken bones and an MRI didn’t reveal anything beyond it being “just a sprain.” With about five-and-a-half weeks until the start of training camp, Crockett was confident he’d be able to hit the ground running.
“I’ll be ready to go when the time comes,” he said.
After a stellar career at FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, Crockett was one of the key catches of the Packers’ undrafted class. With just two running backs on the roster who have played in an NFL game, Green Bay entered the draft with a need at running back but didn’t draft one. Crockett was told he was a consideration in the sixth round but the Packers opted to go with tight end Kennard Backman with the last of their selections.
Despite playing only three seasons due to academic issues at the start of his career, Crockett posted three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons and finished his career with 5,151 all-purpose yards. As a senior, he rushed for 1,994 yards and 21 touchdowns and added 30 receptions to help the Bison win a fourth consecutive national championship.
Not only was Crockett productive but he’s got a nice combination of size (6-0, 217) and athleticism. While he ran just a 4.62 in the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine, his time for the first 10 yards of that sprint was the second-fastest of the 36 running backs in attendance. Crockett ranked fourth in the broad jump and fourth in the vertical jump. When you add the 125-inch broad jump to the 40-inch vertical jump, you get an “explosion score” of 165. Only Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah, who went in the second round to Detroit, scored better. Of the backs weighing at least 215 pounds, Crockett was No. 1 — Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, who went in the first round to San Diego, was next at 161.
The ankle notwithstanding, Crockett called the first month of his NFL career “awesome.” During three weeks of organized team activities and his abbreviated minicamp, he didn’t really stand out at any of the practices that were open to reporters. Then again, no-contact football isn’t really the setting for a running back to show what he’s got.
“It’s probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” he said. “Coming from college, where we did a lot there and had some pretty surreal moments, but this, being able to go out there and see guys — the Clay Matthews, the Aaron Rodgers, the Eddie Lacys and the Julius Peppers of the world — playing at the highest level, it’s kind of sweet.”
With Eddie Lacy and James Starks entrenched as the top two backs, Crockett is battling fellow undrafted free agent Alonzo Harris and first-year player Rajion Neal, who went undrafted last year and spent the second half of last season on the practice squad, for a spot on the 53-man roster.
“When you get here, you realize it’s real life,” Crockett said. “You’re dealing with some of the best athletes in the world. These guys are 6-8, 300 pounds but they’re moving. It’s different to see the type of athletes and the type of creatures that are out there. But you’ve done what you needed to do to get here. You can’t go out there and be like, ‘You’re not supposed to be here,’ because you won’t be here. You have to have the mind-set that I’m here for a reason and I’m going to showcase what I’ve got and showcase my talents and show I can play with the big boys.”firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.