For many unsung Green Bay Packers, tonight's game against the Kansas City Chiefs will be their last chance to shine before the final roster cut a few days later.
On Tuesday, former Chowan University defensive back David Fulton declared: Fulton goes on to tweet that he’s also prepared a speech that he plans to give today thanking the team for the opportunity to live the dream.
With those few tweets, this young man wears his heart on his sleeve. He’s the same undrafted rookie that famously and quite enthusiastically declared for all of the internet to read that he was a Packer.
Fulton understands the importance of tonight.
It could either be an opportunity to extend his NFL career, or it may signal the end of a brief run in the big leagues.
The average tenure of an NFL player is about three years, but for many of the players brought into training camp, their NFL careers will be marked in only a handful of weeks.
Perhaps that’s why David has prepared a speech. It could be an introduction that he will use so that the other 52 members of the squad can get to know him, or it could be nothing more than a farewell.
It was the day we all know that many dreams would be crushed. Packers Nation would never get to know these young players, and they would exit quietly.
The organization was invariably discrete about it when it came to paring down the team.
The announcement that “Coach wanted to see you and, oh by the way, don’t forget to bring your playbook” was never something that happened for public consumption.
Players were never called out in front of their teammates, and it definitely never happened in front of us.
One day they were there. The next day a handful of players would be gone as if they had magically vanished in the night.
Those who made the cut never seemed to dwell on it as if they were silently thankful that their names had not been called. The air would be thick with tension.
In those days leading up to mass cuts, the mood in camp would change.
Sure, it was business as usual for some. But those who knew their chances were slim to none of making the final roster would grow jittery, sometimes melancholic.
Every once in a while some of them who were no older than the kids serving them breakfast would sometimes stop by the dining hall on their way out of town to say goodbye to the college crew staffing camp.
Just like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight, they had somehow transformed back into ordinary kids like the rest of us mopping the floors, and we would share in their pain and sorrow.
A quick hug, perhaps a watery smile to hide the disappointment, and they would be headed back home praying that they may possibly catch on with another team.
Roughly one-third of the 90 players invited to training camp will no longer be Green Bay Packers next week.
Sure, some will be inactive players. Others will become members of the practice squad. But for many, they will be looking at life after football.
It’s easy to celebrate the final roster. Those 53 players will embody our hopes and dreams of a Packers playoff run that will carry them all the way to New York in February.
But it is my wish that we don’t forget that there will be many of their summertime teammates that will not be on the same path.
Tonight, I will be cheering for those players sitting on the bubble and those whose careers end tomorrow.
I hope that those enthusiastic rookies like David Fulton who are thrilled to death to have made it this far will be passed over when the invitations to head to McCarthy’s office with their iPads are dished out.
I know that not all of them will be here tomorrow.
That’s the painful part of football that will sting just like it did last year and every year since I personally said goodbye to many whose careers were cut short during those summers I spent at camp.
Tonight may very well be their Super Bowl.
Those players deserve our respect, support and praise no different than those standing on the field on September 8.
Their careers may be brief. But even if for a few shining weeks, they were Green Bay Packers—their lives forever entwined in Packers history.
(Note: This article was inspired after a telephone conversation with my brother Jay who also worked many summers at the Packers Training Camp. While we never worked camp together, many of the experiences were very similar. Like many siblings, we apparently share two sides of the same brain. Neither of us knew the other would be writing last night, but we chose similar subject material after our phone call. Each article is an original work that stands alone, but together they unknowingly formed two sides of the same coin. Jay's memories of the waning days of camp can be found HERE at pocketdoppler.com.)
Scroll through the slideshow above for the Packers roster as it currently stands.