Die-hard Green Bay Packers fans know his name, but some may not be familiar with Samkon Gado, the former running back who will always be a part of Packers lore.
Before Green Bay had reliable groups of running backs like Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and AJ Dillon, the team would often focus on having one serviceable back: Ahman Green, Edgar Bennett, Dorsey Levens, James Starks, and many others. Someone was always ready to step up and help the offense behind Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre. But Favre and the passing game always seemed to come first, and running backs just added to the gunslinger’s arsenal.
Gado seemingly came out of nowhere to become a sensation in 2005. He was a fan favorite, had a great story, and continues to add to his legacy. Here’s how it all happened.
Gado was born in Nigeria, and his family moved to Illinois when he was one-and-a-half years old, but he was back in Nigeria by the time he was two. His family eventually returned to the States thanks to the help of a South Carolina church.
He attended Liberty University, which was a Division I-AA school at the time. He went undrafted but was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs. During the preseason, he barely played due to a neck injury and ended up on the team’s practice squad. He was released on Oct. 4th, 2005.
Gado and the Packers
After impressing scouts with a 40-yard-dash time of 4.43 seconds, Gado was signed to the Green Bay Packers practice squad. Little did he know what would happen next.
First, starting running back Ahman Green suffered a quadriceps injury and was lost for the year. Najeh Davenport then broke his ankle, and Tony Fisher fractured a rib. Green Bay also lost wide receivers Javon Walker and Robert Ferguson to injuries that year.
With their top three backs out, the team turned to ReShard Lee. He had eight total carries before getting the start on Nov. 6th against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He fumbled his second rush and was benched for the rest of the game. Football used to be a lot different.
Gado was the next backup.
Gado ran for 62 yards and a touchdown on 26 attempts in that game. The Packers lost 20-10 to the Steelers, but Green Bay realized they might have found something with Gado.
The next week against the Atlanta Falcons, Gado had 25 rushes for 103 yards, two rushing touchdowns, and another receiving touchdown. The Packers won 33-25, and the young running back was named NFC Offensive Rookie of the Week.
During Week 12, he had 111 rushing yards and a touchdown over 26 carries. He scored again in Week 13 when he had 75 yards over 20 carries. The next week against the Detroit Lions, he recorded 171 yards and another score. His touchdown came on a 64-yard run, which helped him win the Offensive Rookie of the Week again.
Sadly, Gado joined the injured-reserve group of running backs during Week 15. He suffered a knee injury and was out the rest of the year. He ended the season with 582 rushing yards and seven total touchdowns over only eight games.
After the 2005 season, head coach Mike Sherman was fired and Mike McCarthy was brought in. Gado served as a running back and fullback hybrid during training camp and preseason but sadly suffered from a groin injury. He was then traded to the Houston Texans during Week 1 of the 2006 season.
The still-young running back would play for the Texans during 2006 and part of the 2007 season in a limited but effective role. The Miami Dolphins would later pick him up after Houston released him in October, but he would be released again after the season.
Gado spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons with the St. Louis Rams. He signed with the Tennessee Titans in 2010 but didn’t make the final preseason roster cuts. That would be the end of his NFL career. He never was able to repeat his breakout season with the Packers, but the injury bug often held him back from returning to those heights.
Don’t feel bad for Samkon Gado; he still lives a very full life. He is married and has four children. After football, he got his medical degree in ENT in 2015. The new resident found himself on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic, caring for his patients.
Gado also co-founded a non-profit organization called The Jonah Inheritance with his sister. It helps improve independent health care in Nigeria and encourages healthcare workers to stay and practice medicine there.
He was a hero for the Packers in 2005, and he’s still a hero to this day. He is a shining example of how much work can be done after the NFL, and that making an impact still matters.