In the throes of a 1-7 start and rocked by one serious injury after another to their stable of running backs, the Packers were compelled to turn to Samkon Gado as their featured runner. Relatively speaking, Gado has covered as much ground in the last month as he did 14 years ago when he, along with other family members, emigrated from his native Nigeria to reunite with his father, who had come to America a year earlier to study at a Bible college in South Carolina.
Gado, an undrafted rookie whose name is pronounced SAM-konn GAH-doh, was out of football after a short, early-season stint on Kansas City's practice squad. The Packers signed him to their practice squad Oct. 17. Twelve days later, he was promoted to the 53-man roster as a healthy reinforcement at a decimated position.
Now, improbably, Gado is carrying the dimly lit torch reluctantly passed on by Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport, Tony Fisher and ReShard Lee. Gado didn't begin playing football until he was in seventh grade, and he started just two games in college at Division I-AA Liberty.
"He's making the story as he goes here," Packers coach Mike Sherman said. "He doesn't have much of a story. And, I guess that can be a good thing or a bad thing. But, so far, it's been good."
Gado marked his 23rd birthday and his first NFL start Sunday with a starring role in the Packers' stunning 33-25 win at Atlanta. He scored three touchdowns and rushed for 103 yards on 25 carries. Sherman presented Gado the game ball afterward.
"It was surreal," Gado said. "I was thinking in the first quarter I was ready for the game to end. I couldn't believe it was happening."
The 5-foot-10, 226-pound Gado, who brings both punch and speed to the position, provided an overdue lift for a once-formidable rushing attack that ranked 30th in the league.
The momentous occasion for Gado, the Packers' fifth starting halfback of the season, came in front of a vocal section of family and friends at the Georgia Dome.
Jeremiah Gado wasn't among the throng of supporters, however. He's in the midst of doing mission work back in Africa.
Since his duties have taken him to underdeveloped areas, Jeremiah hasn't been afforded the technological comforts of home with instant access to his son's exploits. He's had to place a late-night call to Samkon each of the last two Sundays to get the lowdown on all the highs of an auspicious start to Samkon's pro career.
Gado's highly efficient effort Sunday yielded the first 100-yard performance by a Packers back in 2005. His two rushing touchdowns equaled half of the team's output in the first eight games.
A week earlier, Gado made a favorable introduction to the Lambeau Field patrons by coming off the bench and carrying the football 26 times for 62 yards and a touchdown.
In a span of only three games, Gado has rushed for 173 yards, second to Green's team-high total of 255 before he sustained a season-ending torn quadriceps tendon Oct. 23. Top backup Davenport also is out the rest of the year with a broken ankle. Fisher is out indefinitely with a broken rib, and recently re-signed Walt Williams suffered a season-ending torn hamstring in practice last week.
"I just hope I'm here at the end of the year," Gado said humbly.