Long shot Pease looks for his chance with Packers
Tackle Derek Sherrod. Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
GREEN BAY - There appears to be no lack of storylines when it comes to the running back position this training camp.
DuJuan Harris was a revelation late last season after being promoted from the practice squad, and ended the season as the primary running back. But the talk of the offseason was the fact that Ted Thompson used not one but two draft picks on ball carriers.
Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin were both among the best backs in the nation last year, and bring with them a big-school pedigree. The last time Lacy appeared in a game, he was named Offensive MVP of the BCS Championship Game. And all Johnathan Franklin did was finish as the all-time leading rusher in UCLA history. Although Lacy was generally rated a little higher by most scouts, Franklin was reportedly the top running back prospect on the draft boards of several talent evaluators. The Packers appear to have added two talented young prospects to go along with their returning players.
Now in his third season, last year’s leading rusher Alex Green will have a chance to put the knee injury that slowed him down last year fully behind him. James Starks will also be in the mix as well. Although much of the talent is unproven, the Packers appear to be stacked at the running back position unlike any time in recent history.
So with all those names, it may come as a surprise that an undrafted free agent who seemingly is a long shot to make the roster was a name that escaped Mike McCarthy’s lips a few times this offseason.
Angelo Pease did not hear his name called during the draft. This should come as no surprise, as he was not even the starting running back on a college team that featured its quarterback as its top rusher.
But McCarthy did seem a little surprised at what Pease brought to the table when he first saw him in person. During the rookie camp shortly after the draft, Pease made a good impression right away. On one particular play during practice, he turned heads when he made a good read, followed it up with an impressive cut, and then had the burst to break it into a big gain. It may have only been one play, but McCarthy mentioned it in his post-practice press conference that day.
"That's a big time cut," said McCarthy. "Frankly, I thought it was Eddie Lacy, the way he dropped his weight and hit the hole.”
Admittedly, there is only so much stock one can place in a rookie camp. But at the conclusion of the weekend of rookies-only practices, McCarthy stood up at the podium again to address reporters, and surprisingly the same name popped up once more.
"I'm going to do it to him again...I thought Pease of Kansas State had a very good weekend," McCarthy said almost reluctantly. "I think he's a good young back."
McCarthy went on to say all the usual things...that there's only so much evaluation that can be done in helmets and shorts, and that the real football doesn't begin until training camp. But for the second time over the course of that weekend he brought up the name of Angelo Pease, unprompted. Now that training camp has arrived, perhaps a second look at this largely unknown player may be warranted.
Angelo Pease (rhymes with “please”) was an All-State high school quarterback for the Cairo (Ga.) Syrupmakers. (Yes, the Syrupmakers.) He led his team to a 27-2 record over his two years as a signal caller, and won the state championship as a senior.
Carlton Gainous was the athletic director at Cairo during the years that Pease played there. Gainous saw hundreds of kids come and go during his years, but Pease left a lasting impression.
“We often compared him to Charlie Ward, who played at nearby Thomas County Central,” Gainous said. Ward went on to star at Florida State, winning the Heisman Trophy en route to the school’s first-ever NCAA National Championship. A great athlete, Ward then went on to play 11 years in the NBA.
“Next to Charlie, (Pease) was probably the best high school player I saw in this area,” added Gainous.
Pease was courted by a handful of major college programs, but several teams backed off because of his grades. He ultimately ended up signing with Kansas State, but as a non-qualifier he had to make a two-year detour at a community college.
When Pease finally arrived on campus in Manhattan (Ks.), he did not see as much action as he would have liked. He was a backup running back on a team with a running quarterback, so his opportunities were limited. As a result, Pease had fewer than 100 total carries during his two years at Kansas State. Although he saw such limited action, he clearly got better as he went along and he earned the trust of his coaches more and more. During his senior season he averaged 5.6 yards on his 60 carries, and continued to improve with the more chances he received. He ran for 47 yards on only seven carries against Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl, which was his final college appearance. One of his coaches said after the game that he wished they could have kept Pease around for another year.
"I think people saw tonight what Angelo is really capable of, that talent that I’ve seen all along,” said Kansas State's co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel. “I think he really has a bright future. I hope he opened some eyes tonight. I wish now we could’ve redshirted him. We needed him, though, and I'm sad that wasn't an option but I think you just look at him and can see how he's built and how someone might be able to use him at the next level."
As training camp unfolds, Pease may be one of the longest of long shots to make the roster. The Packers have shown that they will give anybody a chance, as evidenced by the fact that former undrafted players like Jarrett Boykin, Don Barclay, M.D. Jennings and Dezman Moses all made the team and have gone on to contribute. All the incoming rookies have been made aware of their stories, and Pease seems to know what he has to do if he wants to have a chance to make it in the NFL.
"As soon as I get an opportunity to show what I can do, I try my best to do it," Pease said. "Whenever I get my opportunity, I try to shine."
With so many talented backs ahead of him, his opportunities may be few and far between. But among all the players in that crowded backfield, Angelo Pease may be a player to watch over the coming weeks.
Read more from Mike Conklin (@Packerpedia) on packerpedia.com, for which he is the founder and editor. He also co-hosts a weekly podcast on packerstalk.com.