Five Boot Camp Experiments That Came Before Tim Tebow

Many NFL teams have used squad spots for training camp for less-than-stellar purposes.

The Jacksonville Jaguars signed to Tim Tebow, and they all lost their minds.

It seemed egregiously unacceptable that Jaguars They’ll dedicate a training camp spot to a 33-year-old guy who hasn’t played football in six years and is trying to transition from quarterback to tight end. It was not difficult to feel the cynicism against Jaguars Y Tebow, especially when his jersey quickly topped the sales list of the NFL.

There is, however, another way of looking at the secondary attraction that will come to Jacksonville later in the summer; one that is decidedly less irate and more in line with the history of the NFL. It turns out that many teams in the NFL They have used summer squad squares for less than stellar purposes. The others simply came at a time when there was less scrutiny of every personnel move.

Some of those experiments worked; most of them don’t. But all of them provided lasting memories in the history of professional football. What follows is a small list of notable examples, all of them reminders that football is supposed to be fun, it’s supposed, and that not all teams take the 90th roster spot as seriously as you fans do.

2004: Brock Lesnar at Minnesota Vikings camp

No one laughed when Lesnar he started telling people that he wanted to try professional football. At 26 years old, it had been eight years since his last high school football game. But, he possessed rare abilities as a 286-pound pro wrestling champion capable of running the 40 yards in 4.7 seconds with a 35-pound vertical jump. He was also capable of lifting 475 pounds on the benchpress, and 695 pounds on the squat, and had managed to give his character a convincingly bad personality. WWE.

The Vikings were a natural landing point, given his record as an All-American wrestler at the University of Minnesota. El head coach Mike Tice I was hoping to add some flavor to the camp, in the worst case, and the then owner Red McCombs he knew a winning attraction when he saw one.

Wearing the No. 69, Lesnar appeared in a string of preseason games as a defensive tackle and kickoff coverage specialist. His most notable moment, however, was getting involved in a series of fights with offensive linemen from the Kansas City Chiefs during a joint practice. At a point, Lesnar tore the helmet off a player of the Chiefs and, after being benched, he began rooting for fans into a frenzy.

In the end, the learning curve turned out to be too steep. Lesnar He returned to the struggles and continued to search for new areas to dominate. He found himself a years later as the heavyweight champion of the UFC.

1963: George Plimpton at Detroit Lions camp

Plimpton36-year-old at the time, he was a writer who had helped lead immersive sports journalism. In other words, he thought a good way to report something was to participate in it. So he began requesting teams from the NFL an invitation to training camp as “last quarterback in order” to give him material for a book. Plimpton found a partner with Lions, who hadn’t been to the playoffs in five seasons and wouldn’t make it for eight more.

The book was called “Paper Lion“, where Plimpton It demonstrated the wide gap between an amateur athlete and a professional one. Coaches and team executives were aware of the matter, but Plimpton He asked them not to inform the players because, he wrote, “I want you to think of me as just another rookie.”

Using No. 0, Plimpton got a handful of reps in an intersquad game – the offense reversed every play – and expected to play in a preseason game before the then commissioner Pete Rozelle prohibited it, according to later reporters. But the experience was rich enough to generate a book that led to a movie starring the actor. Alan Alda, receiving a Golden Globe Award nomination for his performance. The Lions They went 5-8-1, out of the playoffs, but their problems went beyond a lying backup quarterback.

Five decades later, the book of Plimpton led to a similar project. The author Stefan Fatsis persuaded the Denver Broncos of allowing him to kick in his training camp in 2008, and later published a book titled “A Few Seconds of Panic“.

1982: Renaldo Nehemiah at the San Francisco 49ers camp

The teams of the NFL They had been chasing clue stars for decades before Nehemiah will enter the scene. But Nehemiah, who had set a world record in the 110-meter hurdles the previous year, sparked a frenzy among the teams of the NFL when he expressed his desire to play in the league. Washington thought he would have the advantage to sign it, since Nehemiah had been a student at the University of Maryland, but the 49ers they went ahead with the first guaranteed contract in franchise history to secure him as a training camp wide receiver.

In reality, those guarantees ensured that Nehemiah he would stay with the team, even though it had been five years since he had played football. Given his speed, it made sense to put him on the field, even for the sake of stretching defenses.

Like his track / football predecessors, he suffered from dropped passes. For a time, his name was synonymous with the idea that elite speed cannot beat experience in the game itself. But the real turning point in his career, he later told Sports Illustrated, was when he was knocked unconscious in 1983.

In 40 games over three seasons, Nehemiah he caught 43 passes for 357 yards with four touchdowns.

1969: Jimmy “Oops” Hines at Miami Dolphins camp

A gold medalist in the Olympic Games from 1968, Hines he was the first man to break the 10-second mark in the 100-meter dash. That was more than intriguing to the teams at the NFL, who had also chased the also stellar of 1968, Tommie Smith, and later they would do the same with John Carlos. The Dolphins, who were in their third year of existence and had a combined 7-21 record in their previous two seasons, selected Hines in 1968. Based on his time in the 100 meters, Hines He qualified as the fastest player in the history of the NFL at that point.

But I had never played football before, and let’s just say Hines earned his nickname during the camp. After assigning it No. 99, the Dolphins they found that he couldn’t catch the ball with any consistency. They didn’t give up on him, however. After all, you can teach people to catch, but you can’t teach speed. At least that’s what they thought.

Hines he spent the 1968 season on a practice squad. He took to the field for nine 1969 games for the Dolphins and one for the Chiefs in 1970. He finished his career as NFL with two receptions for 23 yards, a 7-yard carry, and a 22-yard kickoff return.

1965: “Bullet” Bob Hayes at Dallas Cowboys camp

Some of these unorthodox experiments have actually worked. To be fair, Hayes had more football experience than most of the track stars who tried to convert teams from the United States. NFL. He had been recruited to play football in Florida A&M, where he became an Olympic sprinter.

The Cowboys Y Broncos used future draft picks to secure their rights in 1964, after which he went to the Olympic Games and won two gold medals. He joined the Cowboys in the summer of 1965. No one knew what to expect, but its impact was immediate: the speed of Hayes it was the only thing that was talked about in the camp.

“It was like it was melting, how fast it was going,” said the receiver. Frank Clarke.

He could catch, too. The defenders couldn’t keep up with him, losing ground even on the shortest routes. Hayes he led the league in touchdown receptions in 1965 and 1966. His speed changed the game, requiring defensive coaches to develop zone coverage and sparking an intense search on sights for speed from anywhere possible.

Hayes was exalted in the Hall of Fame in 2009, having finished his career with an impressive 20 yards per catch.