It’s not a great time for Green Bay Packers running backs. Both Jamaal Williams and AJ Dillon were placed on the COVID-19/reserve list earlier this week. After starting the season strong, Pro Bowl back Aaron Jones has missed the past two games and is currently listed as questionable to play against San Francisco tonight. If Jones can’t go this week, the backfield will belong to returner Tyler Ervin and recent practice squad appointee Dexter Williams.
While the prospect of an Ervin and Williams tandem is less-than-ideal, relying on backup running backs is far from unprecedented for the Packers. Through the years, a bunch of halfbacks have been asked to carry the ball for Green Bay. Some went on to become Pro Bowlers. Others had short-lived and unspectacular careers. At least one of them became an MMA fighter, and another became a doctor. One of them even took a dump in some lady’s laundry hamper and was charged with a misdemeanor. As we prepare to see some lesser-known running backs tonight, let’s take some time to remember some former Packers backup running backs.
Aaron Hayden (1997)
The 1997 Packers team was one for the ages. The squad dominated the NFC and fell just shy of winning its second Super Bowl in as many years when the Broncos bested them in the big game. Newly-appointed starter Dorsey Levens was a big reason for the team’s success that year, as he rushed for over 1,400 yards, caught 53 passes, and wound up with 12 touchdowns. Behind Levens on the depth chart was former Tennessee Vols standout Aaron Hayden, who had 148 yards and a single touchdown on 32 carries (which mostly came during garbage time).
Alex Green (2011 – 2012)
The 2011 Packers went 15-1 in he regular season, largely because of Aaron Rodgers and a potent running game centered around Ryan Grant and James Starks. That same season, Alex Green got a little playing time as well. He has three carries for 11 yards and a six-yard reception. The following year, his last in Green Bay, the draft pick out of Hawaii actually started four games and finished his penultimate pro season with 464 yards on the ground, 18 catches, and no touchdowns.
Brandon Jackson (2007 – 2010)
People forget that it was Brandon Jackson, not Ryan Grant or James Starks, who was the team’s primary running back during the otherwise unforgettable 2010 season. After Grant sustained a season-ending injury in Week 1 that year and Starks missed time, the little tailback out of Nebraska carried the load (along with touchdown vulture John Kuhn) for the rest of the regular season. Starks came on strong during the playoffs, eventually ending Jackson’s only season as a featured back.
Brandon Saine (2011 – 2012)
Former Ohio State running back Brandon “Zoom” Saine managed a pretty….nice career line. In his rookie season, he amassed 69 rushing yards and 69 receiving yards over the span of eight games he spent on the active roster. He suited up for six games in 2012 as well, but didn’t tally any carries and zero catches.
Christine Michael (2016)
Over a span of six games with the Packers in 2016, ex-Seahawks running back Christine Michael had 31 carries for 114 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground. He also added two receptions for 11 yards.
Darick Holmes (1998)
We honestly don’t remember this guy, but he allegedly started four games for the 1998 Packers. Weird!
DeShawn Wynn (2007 – 2009)
In 2007, the Packers drafted former Florida Gators starter DeShawn Wynn in the 7th round. He stepped up early that season, scoring four touchdowns in seven games before finishing the year on injured reserve. He’d spend the next to years on the bench or on the team’s practice squad, only getting 14 total carries and one touchdown (the last of his career).
DuJuan Harris (2012, 2014)
Any true Packer Backer remembers DuJuan Harris. The backup running back appeared in a total of 19 regular season games with Green Bay in 2012 and 2014 (two of those were starts). Over that span, the capable tailback had 50 carries for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Harris was also a kick returner, tallying 22 kickoff returns for 456 yards. He was also a standout in the Pack’s 2012 playoff games, posting two rushing touchdowns and 164 total yards in two postseason games.
Harlan Huckleby (1980 – 1985)
We’re mostly including Harlan Huckleby because his name is awesome. He actually started 14 games during his six years with the Packers, but played sparingly otherwise. He finished his career with 10 rushing touchdowns (13 total).
Herbert Goodman (2000 – 2001)
The undrafted back who went by the nickname “Whisper” excelled during the preseason in the early aughts, but it never translated to the regular season. Between the 2000 and 2001 seasons, he carried the ball just four times and finished his football career with -3 yards. You read that right: Negative three yards. After his release, he stuck around the Green Bay area and competed in mixed martial arts matches. If you’re reading this, Whisper, we meant no offense with that “negative three yards” remark. Please have mercy.
Herman Fontenot (1989 – 1990)
After spending four seasons with the Browns, Herman Fontenot finished his career in Green Bay. During his two seasons in Titletown, he carried the ball just 34 times, but he also posted 71 receptions.
James Starks (2010 – 2016)
During his rookie season, James Starks battled injuries, but he got healthy in the playoffs and provided the team with a much-needed spark that helped them reach the Super Bowl and take the Lombardi Trophy back to Green Bay. He’d stick around six more (mostly productive) seasons, but always played second fiddle to other rushers.
Johnathan Franklin (2013)
Three rounds after drafting Eddie Lacy in 2013, the Packers took UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin. While Lacy won Rookie Of The Year honors and broke Green Bay’s five-year streak without a 1,000-yard rusher, Franklin got just 19 totes and a touchdown during his one and only season with the Packers (and only season in the NFL).
Kapri Bibbs (2018)
No, we’re not talking about a type of pants. The Kapri Bibbs we’re referring to had one carry for two yards and three catches for 13 yards during his two-game stint with Green Bay in 2018.
Kregg Lumpkin (2008)
Who could ever forget a guy named Kregg Lumpkin? Memorable as his name is, he played just two games with Green Bay in 2008, managing one carry (for a 19-yard gain!) and three catches.
LeShon Johnson (1994)
LeShon Johnson had two carries for negative two yards for a Packers team that would wash their hands of the second-season running back before season’s end. He would finish with five career touchdowns and serve prison time for dog fighting, so yeah, fuck that guy. He was pretty fast in Madden ’95 though.
Marcus Wilson (1992 – 1995)
You’d be hard-pressed to find a player who spent as much time with Green Bay as Marcus Wilson who did less on the field than he did. In his four-season stint with the Packers, Wilson had a mere six carries for three yards and two catches for 18 yards.
Najeh Davenport (2002 – 2005)
Najeh Davenport had promise and showed glimmers of potential, but injuries and character issues made the backup back’s time in Green Bay fairly short. In four abbreviated seasons, he had seven touchdowns. Also, you might recall that a few weeks before the Packers drafted him in 2002, Davenport was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly taking a dump in a woman’s laundry hamper while she was asleep. The legitimately creepy act earned him the nicknames “Dookie” and “The Dump Truck.”
Noah Herron (2005 – 2006)
Remember Noah Herron? The Milwaukee-born running back was brought in by Green Bay when Pittsburgh dropped the 7th rounder midway into his rookie year in 2005. Over the span of 21 games between 2005 and 2006, he had five touchdowns and filled in at kick returner occasionally.
Raymont Harris (1998)
The longtime Bears starting running back landed in Green Bay in 1998, where he started three games, carried the ball 79 times, had 10 catches, and reached the end zone once.
Rondell Mealey (2001 – 2002)
Mealey spent his entire two-year career with Green Bay. Though his playing time was minimal (22 carries and nine catches), he managed to score a touchdown in 2002.
Samkon Gado (2005 – 2006)
“An undrafted rookie from some college called Liberty who was cut by the Chiefs during training camp, Gado wound up deep down the depth chart in Green Bay, but became the starting RB in week eight, after Pro Bowler Ahman Green suffered ruptured quads and second-string Najeh Davenport broke his ankle. With 103 yards on the ground and two scores in his first career start, the affable Nigerian-born rusher became an underdog worth cheering for, a pleasant folk hero in a season that was mostly doomed. He went on to lead the team in rushing with 582 yards and six touchdowns on the ground (and one receiving TD). The depleted Pack limped to a 4-12 mark, but Gado’s unlikely trio of 100-yard performances are worth remembering, even if almost nothing else was. He was traded to Houston early in the 2006 season, then bounced around the league for a few seasons before becoming a doctor.” [via Milwaukee Record contributor Nick Olig]
Tony Fisher (2002 – 2005)
It’s kind of amazing to think that Tony Fisher only started five games in Green Bay. The Packers running back was something of a fixture in the team’s offense during his four-years in Wisconsin. During that run, the undrafted Notre Dame product amassed 125 receptions, 235 carries, and nine touchdowns.
Travis Jervey (1995 – 1998)
Special teams standout Travis Jervey also moonlighted as a reserve running back. The Citadel surfer dude, who apparently co-owned a lion with ex-teammate LeShon Johnson, made the Pro Bowl in 1997 as a special teamer. During his four years with Green Bay, he started five games, carried the ball 109 times for 431 yards, and scored a touchdown. He also inspired this absolutely dreadful tribute song.
Vernand Morency (2006 – 2007)
When the Pack traded Samkon Gado to Houston in 2006, they got another running back in return. That back was Vernand Morency, a third-rounder who didn’t have a place in the Texans’ offense. He also didn’t exactly catch on in Green Bay, as he had 529 yards and two touchdowns during his 26 total games wearing green and gold.
Vince Workman (1989 – 1992)
Last but not least, we come to Vince Workman. In his four seasons as a Packer, he had 15 touchdowns (including 11 as a backup in 1991!). He got to start 10 games in 1992, topping out at 921 total yards that year before going to Tampa Bay, Carolina, and Indy. Almost 30 years later, he’s still keeping it tight!