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Star Players for 1 Game Seasons

Catchy title, I know. Bill Barnwell sent out a pair of tweets on Cleveland Cavs player Dahntay Jones, who played in just one game this season but logged 42 minutes. Barnwell used the Basketball-Reference Play Index to note that it was the most time any player had seen in a single game, among the group of players who played in exactly one game in a season.

So, naturally, I started wondering about one-game superstars in the NFL. Courtesy of PFR, the table below shows all players with at least 60 yards from scrimmage in a season in which they played in just one game:

Games Total Yds
Rk Year Age Draft Tm Lg G GS Touch TotOff YScm ▾ APYd RtY
1 Ed McCaffrey 2001 33 3-83 DEN NFL 1 1 6 0 94 94 0
2 Adrian Peterson 2014 29 1-7 MIN NFL 1 1 23 75 93 93 0
3 Olandis Gary 2000 25 4-127 DEN NFL 1 0 16 80 90 90 0
4 Chuck Muncie 1984 31 1-3 SDG NFL 1 1 18 51 89 89 0
5 Stanley Wilson 1984 23 9-248 CIN NFL 1 0 19 74 89 89 0
6 Lance Ball 2008 23 IND NFL 1 0 14 83 88 88 0
7 Vincent Alexander 1987 23 NOR NFL 1 0 23 71 86 86 0
8 Eddie Lee Ivery 1981 24 1-15 GNB NFL 1 1 16 72 82 82 0
9 Keith McKeller 1987 23 9-227 BUF NFL 1 1 9 0 80 80 0
10 Adrian Arrington 2010 25 7-237 NOR NFL 1 0 7 0 79 79 0
11 Lavale Thomas 1987 24 GNB NFL 1 1 7 19 71 74 0
12 Larry Joe 1949 26 26-240 BUF AAFC 1 0 5 18 70 82 12
13 Jim Levey 1934 28 PIT NFL 1 1 9 69 69 69 0
14 Eric McCoo 2004 24 PHI NFL 1 0 11 54 69 69 0
15 Milton Wynn 2001 23 4-116 TAM NFL 1 0 4 0 69 69 0
16 C.R. Roberts 1959 23 14-166 SFO NFL 1 0 10 67 67 67 0
17 Tony Cherry 1987 24 9-240 SFO NFL 1 1 13 65 65 65 0
18 Lowell Tew 1949 22 1-4 NYY AAFC 1 1 15 65 65 82 17
19 Donte’ Stallworth 2012 32 1-13 NWE NFL 1 0 1 0 63 63 0
20 Joey Galloway 2000 29 1-8 DAL NFL 1 1 5 0 62 64 2
21 Curtis Adams 1985 23 8-207 SDG NFL 1 0 19 49 61 111 50
22 Nate Burleson 2008 27 3-71 SEA NFL 1 1 8 0 60 114 54
23 Steve Smith 2004 25 3-74 CAR NFL 1 1 6 0 60 60 0

Not a lot of surprises on the list: it’s mostly good players who were injured in their season openers or encountered off-the-field situations after that game.

  • Peterson was limited to just one game in 2014 after — well, you probably remember what happened.
  • Against the Rams in 2000, Olandis Gary tore his ACL in the third quarter but kept on playing; his injury opened the door for Mike Anderson, who wound up having a magical season of his own.
  • Muncie was suspended for the rest of the 1984 season after game 1 due to testing positive for cocaine.
  • Wilson was limited to just one game that year as well, due to a combination of a shoulder injury and drugs/suspension.

Anything memorable stand out to you? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

  • Adam

    Chris Matthews going nuts in SB49 was probably the most shocking.

  • For Vincent Alexander, Larry Joe, and Eric McCoo, that wasn’t the only game of their season. It was the only game of their entire career.

    Also, Randy Burks only played one game in his career, and only touched the ball one time in that game, but it was a 55-yard receiving touchdown. That’s a hell of a highlight.

    • Alexander was a replacement player and Joe played in the AAFC, but McCoo is interesting. I vaguely remember him at Penn State, too. Looking back on it, his numbers were not very good there (particularly later in his career) for a future NFL back:

      http://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/eric-mccoo-1.html

      But he did have a pretty nice stat line, with 69 yards, in the 2004 season finale. He went undrafted in ’02, then starred in the World Bowl in ’04 — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Bowl_XII — before getting his chance in the NFL. Kind of interesting that he never got another shot, but I suppose one decent game isn’t enough to stick around on a roster.

  • sacramento gold miners

    I don’t think McCaffrey ever played again, joining the likes of Joe Theismann and Napoleon McCallaum as players who suffered gruesome career ending injuries on MNF.

    Chuck Muncie had HOF talent, with a rare combination of size and speed. But cocaine was everywhere in pro sports during the 80s, a very sad situation.

    • JeremyDeShetler

      McCaffrey played 28 games (starting 23) in 2002 & 2003. He started a full slate in ’02 and produced a line of 69-903-2 on 103 targets.

  • macatawami

    @disqus_9fm4xzPCsg:disqus

    Percy Howard only had one catch in his career, and it was a 34-yard TD… in the Super Bowl.

    http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/H/HowaPe20/gamelog/

  • I’d say the list of players with at least 200 yards passing despite playing only a single game is more interesting, or maybe just more on point. Geno Smith last year, Neil O’Donnell on the 03 Titans among the Week 17’ers, and topped by some guy named George Izo from 1962 Washington.

    http://pfref.com/tiny/nb6NC

    • You stole my thunder for a future post! ;

  • Josh Sanford

    At the other end of the spectrum: Jerry Rice (among all of his other ridiculous achievements) has got to be the only player (or one on a very short list) to play in 17 regular season games in one year. (He was traded from a pre-bye 2004 Oakland team to a post-bye Seattle team.) Surprisingly, he didn’t catch a pass in all 17 games. However, he was about 165 years old that season…so we can forgive a little.

    • One of eight since 1931 (there are quite a few before then): http://pfref.com/tiny/yL84I

      Rice was kind of suddenly finished that year. There was noticeable decline in ’03, but he was still a reasonable starter, and then in ’04 he just didn’t belong on an NFL team any longer. The Broncos signed him in ’05 but was beaten out for the third receiver role by the legendary Darius Watts.