I’m going to start this by acknowledging that the should be no “me” in media. Writing about the Green Bay Packers in this space isn’t to tell my story and I understand that. However, to understand the light in which I view Packers running back John Crockett you have to know a little bit about me. A lot of you have a lot of this already figured out.
I’m from a very small town in North Dakota. I’ve been a fan of the North Dakota State University Bison, and specifically their football team since I was old enough to understand what football was. I now cover NDSU Men’s Basketball and Football for Scout.
In fact, the only reason I ever became a Packers fan is because the two teams share primary colors and I mistook Green Bay for NDSU. Two years later the Packers won the title and I fell in love with Brett Favre and Titletown, the rest, as they say, is history.
It’s been a helluva ride, specifically lately. The Bison are now the four time defending Division I (FCS) national champions. Since I got to college in the fall of 2006 (spent my first year at NDSU), North Dakota State has defeated FBS opponents Minnesota twice, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State, Ball State, Central Michigan twice, and Colorado State.
Packers running back John Crockett was a huge part of that success. The Minneapolis, MN native rushed for 1,994 yards as a senior and contributed to national championship teams in 2012, 2013 and 2014. I’ve seen every game that John Crockett has played in since high school, and most of them in person. I’m a fan of John Crockett the player and person and I am emotionally invested in his success.
“Crockett has unbelievable energy. Has his nose in the playbook. It was time to give the young man an opportunity.” – Mike McCarthy
There aren’t a lot of quotes from McCarthy that I have been less surprised by. Energy is the one word that anyone who knows John or has seen him play would use to describe him. An easygoing guy off the field, Crockett embraces an alter ego on the field, “Taz”. Warner Brothers’ Tazmanian Devil character spins all around the screen, causing destruction wherever he goes. Crockett would write T-A-Z on his face in eyeblack before big games.
Green Bay inserted John Crockett down 20-0 in the third quarter of what certainly appeared to be a must-win game. They were in need of a spark. That was fine, he’s been a spark on and off the field his whole career. Crockett’s box score numbers (5 rushes, 22 yards) may not have been huge, but his impact on the game was important.
“We develop young guys,” said McCarthy. “If you had been on our sideline you could see the juice that he brought. The way his teammates responded to having him go in the game … that is worth a million words.”
Crockett’s contributions came at a time when the Packers offense (0 points, less than 100 yards of total offense) was non-existent and the running game was stuck in the mud (15 carries, 16 yards). The most memorable play of the night was the play below:
Crockett ran the wrong play, made a cut and picked up 12 yards anyway. He got up laughing and pointing at Aaron Rodgers, apologizing for his mistake. At the same time he didn’t really act like an undrafted rookie who had just run the wrong play would normally act when addressing a two time league MVP.
It was that kind of infectious personality that makes him such a fan favorite at NDSU, and has endeared him to his Packer teammates. The coaching staff obviously loves Crockett as well, releasing fellow undrafted RB Alonzo Harris and promoting Crockett to the 53-man roster on a game day.
I felt pretty strongly in my pre-draft evaluations that Crockett warranted a mid-to-late round pick. I still feel that way. Green Bay felt similarly, and although they didn’t draft him he was their number one priority in college free agency. An ankle injury in OTAs robbed Crockett of the start of training camp, and he never quite made it to the #3 spot on the depth chart that I projected for him after draft weekend.
Taz wasn’t the MVP of the game on Thursday night. He didn’t even lead the Packers running backs in total yards (that was James Starks). He just provided the team a lift at a time when they desperately needed one. The end of the game was decided on a beautiful Hail Mary pass from Rodgers to Richard Rodgers, and it was awesome. Who did you see sprinting down the field step for step with #12, slapping him on the back and congratulating him? Johnny Crockett.
Because of what he was able to put on film on Thursday night, he could be a big part of the season going forward. Because James Starks is playing on an expiring contract and Eddie Lacy only has one year left, he could be a big part of the future.