Melvin Gordon’s return to Wisconsin comes with equal parts dread and anticipation.
“I knew it was going to be a hassle with family and everyone asking me for tickets,” Gordon, the record-setting Badgers running back and San Diego Chargers first-round pick, said in a conference call with Packers beat reporters on Wednesday.
“Yeah, it’s definitely a ton of people. I’ve got people texting me left and right. ‘Can you get me two tickets?’ They think it’s college where the tickets are free and I’m like (laughs), ‘It’s not the same anymore. I’ve got to come up with it out of my own pocket.’ I can’t provide for everyone.”
The annoying ticket requests from friends, friends of friends and friends he hasn’t heard from in forever and a day notwithstanding, Sunday’s game against the Green Bay Packers will be special. Gordon grew up cheering for the Packers in the Wisconsin-Illinois border city of Kenosha. Playing at Lambeau Field will be a dream come true. He’s been to the stadium twice — to watch a Packers-49ers game while in high school and for an all-star football banquet.
“I always told my mom when I was a baby that I wanted to play for the Packers,” Gordon said. “Didn’t work out that way but it’ll be an honor to go there and play and see those guys. I’m really excited to go there because I get to see my old buddy Jared Abbrederis. It’s been a while and I was really close with him, so it’ll be cool to see him out there doing his thing on the opposing team and be able to talk it up with him after the game.”
The Chargers have been trying to find a franchise running back since LaDainian Tomlinson’s heyday. Ryan Mathews, the 12th pick in the 2010 draft, was supposed to be that guy. He had two 1,000-yard seasons but couldn’t stay healthy. The Chargers let him leave in free agency and drafted Gordon with the 15th selection in this year’s draft.
So far, the return on investment has been relatively small. He’s rushed for 270 yards — remember, he rushed for 408 yards in just three quarters vs. Nebraska and closed his historic career with 258 yards against Auburn in the Outback Bowl — and is averaging 3.8 yards per carry.
Packers linebacker Clay Matthews has been impressed by what he’s seen on video. After Rams rookie Todd Gurley ran for more than 150 yards last week, he figures the Chargers might try to test the Packers’ run defense.
“As you saw from his college days at Wisconsin, he’s got the potential to take over a game,” Matthews said.
After averaging 14.2 carries in his first five professional games, Gordon would welcome the opportunity. But this is Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers team. Gordon understands that.
“As a rookie coming in, I can't really complain about how many carries I'm getting,” Gordon said. “This is Phil's team and he sets us up for the best situation to win. If he has us running the ball, that's what we do. If he has us passing the ball, that's what we do. He's in control and he knows best. I really don't argue with the carries or even worry about that. When my jersey number is called, I just try to make plays.”
Gordon’s not homesick for his home state. In San Diego, after all, he can wear sandals all year and joked that he starts sweating the moment he walks out the door. He is, however, home sick for the end zone. After scoring 32 touchdowns last season, he’s yet to score an NFL touchdown. Wherever it happens, that first NFL touchdown will be a memorable experience. But to do it in front of friends and family at Lambeau Field?
“It’d be awesome, man, to get my touchdown anywhere,” he said. “I haven’t been in the end zone for so long. Regardless of where I’m at, when I get in there, I’m going to be happy because, one, I got my first touchdown under my belt and, two, we’re putting points up on the board. I’ll be excited. It’ll be really exciting if I get to do it in front of all my family members that are there.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.