Packers running back Samkon Gado was hanging out in his Ashwaubenon, Wis. apartment at noon on Saturday -- 45 minutes before the team charter would depart for Cincinnati -- when Packers Director of Pro Personnel Reggie McKenzie called the practice squader and told him they activated him to the 53-man roster.
"I had to get ready quick," Gado said.
Gado has risen up the depth chart with similar speed. With running backs Ahman Green (quadriceps tendon) and Najeh Davenport (ankle) out for the season, the Packers signed Gado, who spent the first month of the season on the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad, to their practice squad on Oct 17. On Sunday he received his first NFL action.
Gado earned the game action through his play during practice. He wowed the coaches and players as he ran repetitions for the scout team, simulating the running backs for the opposing teams. The 5-10, 226 pound running back showed a nice burst and soft hands to go along with a build that can dish out punishment to defenders.
"He was making plays all through practice," fullback Vonta Leach said. "He was doing a great job hitting the holes."
Impressed by those skills, the Packers' coaching staff drilled him through the basics of the offense. Running backs coach Edgar Bennett met with Gado at 7 a.m. every morning last week to quiz him on formations, watch film and go through the playbook with him. Gado proved to be a quick learner.
"He's a very intense guy when it comes to making sure he's 100 percent prepared," fullback William Henderson said. "He studies it hard."
He had sufficiently mastered the offense to suit up on Sunday -- thirteen days after the Packers signed him to their practice squad. Gado participated in three plays.
His NFL debut occurred with 8:46 in the third quarter during a nine-yard end around to Donald Driver. With 5:06 left in the third quarter, he received his first -- and only -- NFL carry to date. Off the right side, he ran behind Henderson for eight yards.
"An eight-yard run on your first carry, that's pretty spectacular for a guy coming from Liberty University," Henderson said.
His performance at Liberty, a Baptist Division I-AA university in Lynchburg, Va., led the Chiefs to sign him as an undrafted free agent. In 39 games at Liberty, he averaged 6.0 yards on 273 carries (1,631 yards) with 16 touchdowns.
Gado displayed flashes during training camp, and the Chiefs signed the 22-year-old to their practice squad after releasing him at the end of the summer. But when offensive lineman John Welbourn returned from his four-game drug suspension, the Chiefs had to clear a spot on the 53-man active roster. With a deep backfield led by Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson, the Chiefs decided to hold on to offensive lineman Johnathan Ingram instead. Chiefs Head Coach Dick Vermeil reluctantly released Gado.
"He said it was a decision he didn't want to make," Gado said. "As soon as he could, he was going to try and bring me back. The opportunity never materialized."
Gado has become accustomed to moving on. He lived in Kufai, Nigeria until the age of nine. In 1990 his father, Jeremiah, came to the United States to earn a doctorate degree in divinity at Columbia International University in Columbia, S.C. Through his church in South Carolina, a donation was made one year later, allowing Samkon and his mother Grace to join him in America.
Jeremiah had hoped Samkon would continue playing soccer, a more popular sport in his native land. Instead he began playing American football in the seventh grade.
"It wasn't the choice of my father because I was playing soccer," Samkon said. "That was my Dad's passion."
Jeremiah came around after seeing Samkon's size and speed made him a natural for the gridiron.
"He's been my biggest supporter ever since," Samkon said.
Jeremiah traveled back to Nigeria to visit some family but called him when he heard of his son's NFL debut. Samkon hopes he will make it to his Packers games.
If so, he will have to observe his son in a colder environment than they have become accustomed to in South Carolina and Nigeria.
"The weather is definitely an issue," Samkon said. "But I think it's an issue I can afford to deal with."
Gado likely will adapt to the new climates as quickly as he has to everything else.