has crowd chanting his name
By Jenna Fryer, The Associated Press
Updated: Nov 29 at 01:34
CHARLOTTE - The last person expected to make the Carolina Panthers roster this season was Brad Hoover. Twelve games into the season, he's emerging as their best running back.
Making his second career start in place of the injured Tshimanga Biakabutuka on Monday night, Hoover ran for 117 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown in the Panthers' 31-14 victory over the Green Bay Packers. He also had three catches for 41 yards.
"I never thought I'd be in this position, playing on Monday Night Football against the Green Bay Packers," Hoover said. "I'm going to cherish the ball, I'm going to put it in my trophy case and hopefully keep adding to it."
An undrafted rookie from Western Carolina, Hoover was invited to the Panthers' camp more as a courtesy to a Carolina kid than anything else.
The Panthers already had Biakabutuka as their starter, and veteran Anthony Johnson was solid as his backup. Plus, they signed Natrone Means during the offseason to be a third-down back.
But a funny thing happened during camp, when Seifert became smitten with Hoover's determination. He decided to keep him on the roster as a fullback and let Johnson, a 10-year veteran, go.
Then in October, when it became clear that Means was not healthy enough to play this year, the Panthers let him go, too.
Hoover was suddenly Biakabutuka's backup, and the Panthers were praying the veteran wouldn't get hurt. He did, injuring his toe two weeks ago, and Hoover got the nod last week against Minnesota.
It was uneventful - he ran for 59 yards on 18 carries - but he made up for it on Monday night.
"He is taking advantage of these opportunities that he is getting," Carolina coach George Seifert said. "It's not that he's a breakaway speed guy, but he's got deceptive speed and balance."
Hoover, considered a power back, opened the game with a 16-yard reception on third-and-6 to keep Carolina's first scoring drive alive. He kept adding small runs throughout the game and broke free for a 35-yard gain in the second quarter.
By the time he scored his first career touchdown, a 1-yard plunge in the fourth quarter, the crowd was chanting "Hoo-ver, Hoo-ver" every time he touched the ball.
"I think Brad Hoover won over the crowd, he stole the show," receiver Muhsin Muhammad said. "He's on his way to a great career now."
That's something Hoover never thought he'd hear anyone say.
He finished his career ranked second on Western Carolina's rushing list with 3,616 yards, but was considered too slow to make it in the NFL. He said the fastest 40-yard dash he ever ran was in 4.6 seconds - considerably slower than the 4.3's the top running backs in the league clock.
"I'm not the fastest guy and I'm not going to put a lot of moves on you," Hoover said. "But I'm a guy that's going to grind it out and that's how it's always been with me."
The Panthers said Hoover demonstrated that early in camp, and that's the reason he's still around.
"He's got so much heart and so much drive," tackle Matt Campbell said. " He's not fooling anybody, he's not going to break the 80-yarder, but he's going to get the 4 and 5 tough yards, and we need that."
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