“Maybe I can lobby for a few more touches,” he jokes.
In reality, Felton surrendered that vision long ago. Sure, after a stellar career at Furman that included a school-record 63 TDs, he had initial visions of becoming a punishing ball carrier in the NFL.
The most optimistic believers saw him in the mold of Jerome Bettis. Felton envisioned a Mike Alstott-type role. But NFL personnel folks felt he fit as nothing more than a rugged blocking fullback. And so quickly, dreams gave way to survival instincts.
Sure, Felton would have loved if his path from draft weekend 2008 to his first Pro Bowl had been quick, painless and without detour. It was everything but.
Those hunches Felton had during the fifth round of the ’08 draft that he’d get a call from Arizona or Buffalo? Detroit traded up and phoned instead.
Talk about bad timing. As a rookie, Felton was part of the most discouraging death march in league history. Detroit went 0-16.
Talk about a frustrating fit. Following that collapse, Lions coach Rod Marinelli was fired, his staff gutted. In came new coach Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan plus No. 1 pick Matthew Stafford. Just like that, even with Felton sharpening his skills under running backs coach and former Pro Bowl fullback Sam Gash, the need for a road-grating fullback diminished.
Two more seasons passed. The Lions unleashed young receiver Calvin Johnson and went pass-happy.
Felton made it deep into the 2011 preseason before being released.
And then after being claimed on waivers, a promising chance in Carolina derailed when the Panthers’ “Smash and Dash” running attack led by DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart morphed into “The Cam Newton Show.”
Felton quickly slid again into irrelevance, was released in November and finished 2011 with a safety-net stop in Indianapolis, wondering if his dream was disintegrating.
“You see it happen to guys all the time,” he says. “You’re with a guy one day, he’s gone the next and he never pops back up. Anywhere.”
Imagine the pessimism Felton felt as he hit free agency in 2012. Since sixth grade, he had been convinced he’d make it big. During his first four NFL seasons, he often told friends he was one of the best fullbacks in the league.
But he was all too low on proof and suddenly his motivation to attack his training, to stick to a strict diet, to invest everything he had in simply finding a chance dipped.
“Obviously it’s a dream to play in the NFL. But I felt like I was being cheated out of the dream,” Felton says. “Look, this league doesn’t owe you anything. It never will. But when you dream about it and you work so hard to get here, you feel like I didn’t get the experience I thought I was going to have.”
In the shadow
If anyone can relate, it’s Gerhart, now in his fourth year as a Peterson insurance policy.
By now it’s well-documented that the reigning MVP has announced his quest, as preposterous as it sounds, to rush for 2,500 yards. When Gerhart heard about that goal for the first time, he swallowed hard.
|Cleveland - LP: T. Bauer||1||FINAL|
|Minnesota - WP: A. Swarzak||3|
|Cincinnati - LP: M. Leake||1||FINAL|
|Milwaukee - WP: K. Lohse||5|
|Kansas City||1||Top 9th Inning|
|Washington||2||Bottom 5th Inning|
|NY Mets||1||Top 5th Inning|
|Detroit||6||Top 4th Inning|
|Los Angeles - D. Haren||6:05 PM|
|Pittsburgh - F. Liriano|
|San Francisco - M. Bumgarner||6:05 PM|
|Philadelphia - A. Burnett|
|Texas - Y. Darvish||6:05 PM|
|NY Yankees - D. Phelps|
|Boston - C. Buchholz||6:07 PM|
|Toronto - R. Dickey|
|Miami - N. Eovaldi||6:10 PM|
|Atlanta - E. Santana|
|Tampa Bay - A. Cobb||6:15 PM|
|St. Louis - L. Lynn|
|San Diego - I. Kennedy||7:05 PM|
|Chicago Cubs - T. Wada|
|Houston - B. Peacock||9:05 PM|
|Oakland - J. Chavez|
|Baltimore - C. Tillman||9:05 PM|
|LA Angels - J. Weaver|
|Calgary||7/24/14 8:00 PM|
|Winnipeg||7/25/14 9:00 PM|
|Ottawa||7/26/14 6:00 PM|
|Toronto||7/26/14 9:00 PM|
|Winnipeg||7/31/14 6:00 PM|
|New York||9:30 PM|
|Aug 8 - vs. Oakland||7 pm|
|Aug 16 - vs. Arizona||7:30 pm|
|Aug 23 - at Kansas City||7 pm|
|Aug 28 - at Tennessee||7 pm|
|2014 regular season|
|Sep 7 - at St. Louis||Noon|
|Sep 14 - vs. New England||Noon|
|Sep 21 - at New Orleans||Noon|
|Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta||3:25 pm|
|Oct 2 - at Green Bay||7:25 pm|
|Oct 12 - vs. Detroit||Noon|
|Oct 19 - at. Buffalo||Noon|
|Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay||Noon|
|Nov 2 - vs. Washington||Noon|
|Nov 9 - Bye|
|Nov 16 - at Chicago||Noon|
|Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay||Noon|
|Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina||Noon|
|Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets||Noon|
|Dec 14 - at Detroit||Noon|
|Dec 21 - at Miami||Noon|
|Dec 28 - vs. Chicago||Noon|