Samkon Gado is one of those rare athletes who wasn’t really on the radar of scouts going into his final year playing college ball. In fact he was looking forward more to becoming a doctor than playing football, but as fate would have it, nearly the entire Liberty runningback corps was depleted, and Samkon stepped in and ran for 901 yards on 138 carries, scoring 11 TDs in 9 games.
It was all about being at the right place, at the right time for Samkon, and it seemed that scouts identified his intangible talent for rising to the occasion. After going undrafted in 2005, he was signed to the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad for a brief time. A month or two later, he was signed by the Packers. Then nearly the entire runningback stable went down one by one due to injury. First Ahman Green, then Najeh Davenport, and then finally Tony Fisher.
Gado saw extensive playing time in their absence after taking the starting runningback role. He’d have 3 100 yard efforts during the season, and set a franchise rookie record rushing for 171 yards against the Lions. Ultimately he too would end his season on injured reserve.
With new management in town for 2006, the Packers traded Gado to the Houston Texans after Week 1 of the season for Vernand Morency. The Texans were shoring up their runningback depth behind Ron Dayne and Wali Lundy. During the season he’d pitch back to back 60 yard efforts against Jacksonville and Buffalo.
In 2007, Ahman Green also joined the Texans runningback committee, and was the starter above Dayne. Gado beat out Lundy to make the final squad, scoring his first TD with the Texans in the season opener against the Colts.
He’d be cut at the end of October, and signed with the Miami Dolphins, after starting RB Ronnie Brown went down. Again, backup Ricky Williams, then himself also was fallen by injury, so Samkon had to step in again. He’d help contribute to the Dolphins only win on the 2007 season.
Samkon then played for the St. Louis Rams over the next two seasons, but saw little action outside of special teams. In 2010 he signed with the Tennessee Titans but did not make the final roster.
Samkon finished his medical degree and now is a doctor at Saint Louis University Hospital as part of the Otolaryngology program.
Jared Zabransky was a dual threat quarterback for Boise State, and helped bring the program national respect with their thrilling victory over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. Over 4 years, Zabransky was 610/980 for 8256 yards, 58 TDs to 37 interceptions. He also contributed 863 yards and 31 TDs on the ground.
Scouts didn’t really think that Zabransky was going to fit in the NFL as a quarterback. In fact his situation graded out similar to Eric Crouch. Sure he was a talented athlete, but Jared’s arm strength and passing mechanics concerned teams. Certainly however Zabransky made up for it in intangibles: Leadership and always finding a way to win. He went unselected in the 2007 NFL draft. Afterwards he signed with the Houston Texans, briefly appearing on their practice squad. He’d join the Steelers in 2008 but be cut before the regular season.
Jared wanted to keep playing QB so he went to the CFL, signing with the Edmonton Eskimos, seeing primarily backup and mopup duty over his career from 2009-2011. His best game came perhaps in 2010 for the Esks when Jared passed for 188 yards on 16 of 23 and 2 touchdowns.
As of 2016 he resides in The Woodlands, Texas, and is the director of sales of oil and gas for an OEM of oil drilling equipment.
I remember when the Texans signed Jared. The team had just jettisoned David Carr and handed the keys over to Matt Schaub. Sage Rosenfels had the inside track for second string QB, while Zabransky looked to nab the Practice Squad QB or the 3rd string spot. The Texans in the end elected not to carry 3 QBs however, and Zabransky was disappointingly cut.
Card: Playoff Contenders 2007, Score 2008, Panini UT 2015
Acquired: 2016, EBay. IP 2018, GiGi’s Cupcakes Soft Grand Opening
See Also: Michael Griffin
After Michael’s 9th season in the NFL, in which he recorded 101 tackles, an interception, and a sack, he was released in the off season by the Tennessee Titans. With gas still left in the tank, Michael signed with the Minnesota Vikings for 2016. He’d be injured during the preseason and released. Rehabbing from his injury Griffin signed with the Carolina Panthers. He played in 10 games contributing 30 tackles. In 2017, Michael joined Longhorn Legends TJ Ford and Cory Redding in finishing his bachelor’s degree with Griffin’s being in youth and community services.
I’ve always liked the Playoff Contenders series, strictly because it follows a slow evolution rule, much like the Corvette. Every year, small tweaks in the design and look of the card. The 2007 entry was a nice set, but I really disliked the tiny Titans pinstripe type. It says baseball, not football with that typeface. It’s also just dangling out there distracting from the image of the player. It does not pass the thumb test. Basically if you put your thumb to the image over the Titans pinstripe the image looks better without the pinstripe. Still it was a pretty solid card and the certified autograph works well on this canvas.
Fellow Longhorn and Titan alum, Brian Orapko and Griff had been teasing the grand opening of their cupcake restaurant GiGi’s in Bee Cave. After I heard they had a soft opening for their social media fans the previous day, I made the trip from East of Austin all the way to Bee Cave through the freezing rain. It paid off as both Brian and Orapko were there as well as Jamaal Charles (special random guest appearance)! Michael was kind enough to pen the Panini 2015 UT card as well as his Score 2008 card. The cupcakes were also really good too!
Celebrating the game, the players, the cards, and the autographs for over 25 years.