Written by Justin Prince.
When the Green Bay Packers take the field for the final time in 2017 against the Detroit Lions today, they’ll be doing so with a few faces that will be familiar to Marshall fans.
Tight end Emanuel Byrd and receiver Michael Clark will both be active for the Packers. Both former Herd standouts went undrafted in this year’s NFL Draft but managed to sign free agent deals with Green Bay. Neither made the team’s initial 53-man roster but impressed enough to land on the Packers practice squad.
But, with Green Bay eliminated from the playoffs, the Packers are using the final few weeks of the season to see what some of their lesser-known talent can do. This opened the door for Clark to make his NFL debut last week in a loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
Clark, who spent only one season at Marshall after beginning his college career as a basketball player responded by catching a trio of passes for 36 yards. His most impressive grab was a full layout for a 19-yard pick-up to give the Packers a first down.
Byrd will be making his NFL debut against the Lions after two years with the Thundering Herd. Splitting time with versatile tight end Ryan Yurachek, Byrd registered 45 catches for 456 yards and four touchdowns while at Marshall.
Other former Marshall players suiting up for NFL teams during the final week of the regular season are Vinny Curry, Darryl Roberts and Lee Smith. Albert McClellan the long time Baltimore Ravens linebacker suffered a torn ACL in the preseason and has been relegated to the Injured Reserved List all season.
Curry has racked up 40 tackles and contributed three sacks to the Philadelphia Eagles defensive line, which is one of the best d-lines in the NFL. For his career Curry has 128 tackles, 22 sacks and five forced fumbles.
Roberts is in his second season on the New York Jets’ active roster after being drafted by the Patriots in 2015. This season playing the nickel back position, Roberts has made 40 stops, broken up 8 passes and picked off another for his first career interception. In his time with the Jets, Roberts has recorded 61 tackles and 14 passes defended.
The Oakland Raiders seldom use Smith in the passing game but the seven-year veteran has developed into one of the best pure blocking tight ends in the league. Considered to be one of the toughest players on the Raiders roster, Smith has made 61 career starts and even though he isn’t thrown at much, he’s made the most of his targets.
Smith has had 55 passes come his way in his career and has caught 46 of them for 319 yards and four scores.
Byrd and Clark are hoping they can show they deserve to stick around the league heading into 2018 and become veterans themselves one day. A good game against the Lions to end the year would be a good place for both to start.