Jason Chery fielded the punt cleanly, drifted to his left and then — bam! Chery blew through a crease and sprinted 75 yards for the Green Bay Packers in their 59-24 victory over Indianapolis on Thursday night.
"I saw an explosive north-south run," special-teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said. "It was outstanding. That's the way it's supposed to look."
The Packers want to get another look at Chery, starting when practice resumes on Sunday and through Thursday's preseason finale at Kansas City.
"Chery, how could you not be excited about that young man?" coach Mike McCarthy said. "He gets an opportunity and we'll definitely give him some more opportunities, I can promise you that, as we move forward into this next week."
Until then, Chery seemed like a possibility to be one of the five players cut in the first mandatory roster reduction on Aug. 31. He was a late arrival to training camp, signed to bolster the depth after undrafted rookie Jeff Moturi sprained a knee that eventually led to his being waived with an injury settlement.
At his first practice in Green Bay, Aug. 5, Chery blew past Charles Woodson down the right sideline but dropped a perfectly thrown bomb. And that had mostly been the story of Chery's first three weeks in training camp — a nice play, followed by a mistake. Chery, who was signed by Carolina after the 2009 draft and spent time on the Panthers' and Steelers' practice squads, looked like just another guy with great speed but shaky hands.
But then Chery exploded through the Colts' punt team.
"I seen the opening and I just took off," Chery said with a huge grin at his locker in the auxiliary locker room. "When I caught the ball, the first thing I saw was guys closing in, so my first reaction was I had to somehow go vertical and then merge on my blocks and make them think I'm going one way to another. I just took it without thinking and just ran and let my ability work itself out. I saw a big hole and I just took it and didn't look back. Usually, when you run like that, you're going to look back and see if someone's chasing you, but I just went forward and put it in overdrive."
Suddenly, for a team that's had a precious few impact plays from its kick return units over the last several years, Chery has at least given himself a chance to run through that door.
Chery was a multitalented offensive weapon while making 34 career starts at Louisiana-Lafayette, and the Packers were one of the teams most interested leading up to the 2009 draft. As a senior in 2008, he led the Ragin' Cajuns with 46 catches for 656 yards and seven touchdowns, gained 312 rushing yards on 25 carries with three touchdowns and led the Sun Belt Conference in kickoff return yardage, including a 97-yard touchdown. On top of that, he recorded 14 tackles on special teams — boosting his four-year total to 60.
Last year, the Packers' fifth receiver was Brett Swain because of his value on special teams and not as a pass-catcher. Chery's resume suggests that potential is there.
"Right now, this is top, No. 1," Chery said of his career highlights. "I've watched a lot of other guys playing and I knew I could be as good as them as long as I keep on working hard and pursuing my dream. I kept on staying positive."
Chery's magical run was punctuated by a Lambeau Leap and a magical, celebratory ride atop No. 1 punt returner Will Blackmon's shoulders.
"It was an unparalleled experience," Chery said. "It was like a dream come true to see how the guys rallied around me and seen their smile, that made my whole day."
Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.