Mike McCarthy referred to him as "Mr. Consistent." In high school, Brandon Saine was known as "Mr. Football."
The roads Saine followed to Ohio State as the No. 1 prep star in Ohio, and to the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent, run in opposite directions. Coming out of high school, Saine was a prized recruit. He could've played anywhere in the Big Ten and beyond.
Success accompanied him, but not to the degree that was expected. Saine carved out enough of a career at Ohio State to gain 1,408 yards rushing and win four letters, but not enough to be drafted into the NFL.
The Packers saw something they liked. Maybe it was Saine's aptitude for the game. Maybe it was his exemplary lifestyle and captaincy at Ohio State.
Maybe it was because Packers running backs aren't cast as stars. They are expected to be smart, do-it-all backs that aren't above protecting the player that is cast as the star, the quarterback.
"Brandon Saine is 'Mr. Consistent.' He does it every day. He's such a pro for a young player. Doesn't say much. He's strictly business. I just love his approach. He's made the gains physically from Year 1 to Year 2. I think he's having an excellent camp," McCarthy said.
Whatever the Packers saw in Saine, their vision was spot on. He's perfect for their needs.
"I just think it's the hard work I put in and trying to get better every day. If I do mess up, it's fixing it the next time," Saine said when asked to describe the qualities that make him the consistent performer he is.
He came out of nowhere last year to earn significant playing time on a defending Super Bowl champion that came within a win of an undefeated regular season. He was released in final cuts and then signed to the Packers practice squad. At midseason, he was signed to the active roster and a few weeks later he was in the Packers backfield on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit.
By season's end, Saine had rushed 18 times for 69 yards, caught 10 passes for 69 yards and was being mentioned prominently by Coach McCarthy in plans for the Packers' future at running back. At one point in the spring, McCarthy went so far as to suggest Saine was the position's top performer.
The position would seem to belong to James Starks, a man of extreme athletic gifts and physique. Behind him is Alex Green, a third-round pick in 2011 who possesses classic in-the-hole explosiveness.
Saine? He's running third, it would seem, unless all those passes he never seems to drop and all of those mistakes he never seems to commit have him actually higher on the depth chart than we might think. You never know.
"Right now, I'm the kind of guy that keeps taking what you give to me. I don't want to look too far ahead," he said.
Smart? Just spend some time in conversation with him. Ask him about his economics degree. No "Tattoogate" here.
Thursday night in San Diego, Saine will likely carry the football early and often in the Packers preseason opener. Hey, maybe he'll even lead the team in rushing in the preseason. You never know.
"I feel like I have a chance to show what my performance level is," he said. "I think I can handle any situation I'm handed. I have that kind of faith in myself."
How about that tag, "Mr. Consistency"? Isn't that a little restrictive? Does he like that?
"I do like it. I have to use that going forward, to make sure I don't let anyone down," Saine said.
Expectations would seem to be increasing. Related links