Before anyone puts Marshall Newhouse and D.J. Williams in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, let me tell you a story. In 1988, I covered the Philadelphia Eagles’ training camp for a local TV station. That team featured a head coach named Buddy Ryan and high-profile players like quarterback Randall Cunningham, tight end Keith Jackson, wide receiver Cris Carter, defensive end Reggie White, linebacker Seth Joyner and cornerback Eric Allen. So guess who I was sent to interview about a week into camp? Martin Booker, a little-known wide receiver from Villanova who had spent the previous season on injured reserve. Why him? Because the incredibly fast word-class hurdler had been lighting up Lehigh University for days.
I went into the cafeteria and found Booker (who, by the way, turned out to be one of the nicest professional athletes I ever met). As we walked the few hundred yards to where the cameras were set up, hundreds of fans cheered wildly (not for me). They loved the hometown hero who proved to be the one receiver the strong-armed Cunningham could never overthrow. After the interview, I shook hands with Booker and wished him the best of luck. He gave me a smile and started on his long walk back to the dorms. He would be gone less than three weeks later.
Life at Lehigh became a lot more difficult for Booker once he started running routes against the No. 1 corners. He was no longer able to get away from the line of scrimmage as easily as he did against backups Izel Jenkins and Eric Everett, and even with his blazing speed, he wasn’t able to separate himself from Allen and fellow Pro Bowler Roynell Young. Booker soon started to slide his way back down the depth chart. By the end of the following week, nobody was cheering for him anymore. Nobody wanted to interview him anymore. In fact, even the coaches seemed to have forgotten about him.
That’s the thing to remember about young players in training camp – the better they do early, the more difficult the challenges become later. Newhouse won’t be facing second-year defensive lineman C.J. Wilson and rookie outside linebacker Ricky Elmore all summer. Pretty soon, the competition will be much stiffer – both in practice and especially in the preseason games. That applies to Williams as well. The middle of the field will look a lot different in a few weeks when the starters take more repetitions in practice and players from the Browns are fighting to make a good impression on new coach Pat Shurmer.
Look, I’m not down on Newhouse and Williams. In fact, I’ve written extremely positive things about both players. But I’ve already had a number of Packer fans – very smart Packer fans – ask me if Newhouse is now the heir apparent at left tackle or if Williams could push Jermichael Finley out the door after the season. And they’re asking me that after one practice in pads. One! Just remember – the coaches, the local beat reporters and 99.9% of the blogs (not this one, of course) were praising offensive tackle Breno Giacomini at this time a year ago. A lot can change between Aug. 1 and Aug. 20. Just ask Martin Booker.
-Photo on home page by Corey Wilson/Press-Gazette