Every year in just about every training camp across the NFL, a player pops up who unexpectedly catches the attention of all those watching. The New York Jets have had plenty in their recent history, with one specific case turning into a real NFL success story. These are players like Danny Woodhead and Dan Depalma, players who you know shouldn't make the team but do something to stand out every time you forget about them. Who will be the 2012 Jets training camp hero?
New York Jets training camp will almost certainly produce another under the radar fan favorite who captures the hearts of those following training camp closely. There's often talk in the world of sports about the team within the team, but these players become the rooting interest within the rooting interest. In some respects they become folk heroes, giving fans a reason to watch preseason games beyond the time the starters are involved.
Danny Woodhead is the posterboy. He played in 10 games for the Jets in 2009, then he latched on with the New England Patriots after the Jets cut him in 2010. He actually made the original 2010 roster, but the Jets cut him prior to the first game of the season. He has rushed for 898 yards over the past two season with New England and has scored seven total touchdowns. He also got touches in the Super Bowl against the New York Giants this past January.
Who will be the 2012 training camp hero? Here are some candidates:
Royce Pollard: Right now it's looking pretty unlikely for Royce Pollard to make the team. There are four sets all but set in stone barring injury: Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens. With the Jets looking at five, maybe six wide receivers on their 53-man roster, that leaves one to two spots. Competing for those spots are players with experience who have been past contributors (Patrick Turner), draft picks (Scotty McKnight, Jordan White) and players who have been on the fringe of the roster for some time (Damarcus Ganaway, Eron Riley). The player that makes the roster will almost certainly be a special teams asset, and Royce Pollard may not be a fit in that role.
What Royce Pollard does bring is a great work ethic. He walked on at the University of Hawaii, ending up as a captain last season. He went undrafted in the 2012 NFL Draft, but latched on with the Jets and has made it to training camp. While there doesn't seem to be a spot for him on the roster right now, don't be surprised if he makes some plays that earn him a spot on a roster elsewhere in the NFL.
Ryan Steed: I personally believe Ryan Steed will make the roster as a steal the Jets picked up as an undrafted free agent. He was expected to be drafted out of Furman but his stock dropped when he ran a slow time in the 40-yard dash. Luckily for Ryan Steed, football isn't played on a track and the Jets are taking a no-risk shot that he can live up to the second-to-third round grade he originally earned with his play on the field.
Marcus Dowtin: Marcus Dowtin was originally playing at the University of Georgia and is an SEC-level athlete. He is comparable in many way to Demario Davis, a linebacker who runs like a safety. Marcus Dowtin is fluid dropping into coverage and his speed could be an asset on special teams. All it will take is one play on kick coverage giving Marcus Dowtin a running start with his impressive speed creating a highlight reel hit and Jets fans will have a new training camp hero to root for.
Who will be the 2012 Jet training camp hero? That's still to be determined, but there are plenty of fine candidates to choose from. We chose our top three, who will you be watching?