Packers' Kuhn takes path to cult hero
Packers fullback John Kuhn talks to reporters during media day at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas Tuesday.
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Five years ago, when John Kuhn was a rookie with the Steelers, he sat in the stands at Super Bowl XL Media Day at Ford Field in Detroit. A couple reporters wandered by and asked a few questions, but he was more of an onlooker than a participant in the festivities.
Tuesday morning inside Dallas Cowboys Stadium, Kuhn was one of a select few Green Bay Packers with a podium to himself on Media Day. He fielded questions from reporters for an hour, a participant this time, much like he will be when Super Bowl XLV kicks off Sunday.
Kuhn, a 6-foot, 250-pound fullback, earned a Super Bowl ring in 2005 as a member of the Steelers' practice squad. Sunday, he will have an opportunity to have an impact on the game.
"It's something that's pretty sacred -- a Super Bowl ring," Kuhn said. "But I told a lot of people I wanted to earn one on the field.
"That's what Sunday is all about."
Kuhn has not been showing off his ring to teammates this week. He has it in a safe at his Green Bay home. It's not that Kuhn is not proud of the accomplishment with the Steelers, but it would be a different experience to win a Super Bowl as an active member of the roster and a game-day contributor.
"Don't get me wrong, it's precious and important to me," he said, "but I want to earn one on the field."
Kuhn left the Steelers without fanfare in September 2007. Not many undrafted free agents who don't play much make much of a ripple when they are cut.
But the player who could not catch the eye of first-year coach Mike Tomlin has made a home for himself in Green Bay as a multi-purpose running back.
Kuhn spent parts of two seasons with the Steelers. After his year on the practice squad in 2005, he was on the active roster for nine games in 2006.
That was Bill Cowher's final season as head coach. Kuhn spent the '07 training camp with the Steelers, but he did not make the final cut.
"I was always thankful for what the Steelers did for me, the fact that they gave me a shot and brought me in," said Kuhn, who grew up in York, Pa., and starred at Division II Shippensburg University from 2001-04.
Kuhn said he tries not to think about how his career might have turned out if Cowher did not leave the Steelers. He had earned Cowher's trust over two seasons, but he could not convince Tomlin to keep him.
"You try not to think about that," he said. "If you do the wouldas, shouldas and couldas, you're not really focused on the end game. I've always tried to stay positive and try to stay focused on the future.
"Tomlin is a great coach. He's very vocal with the guys and up front with them and tells them how it is.
"When they let me go, Tomlin was very nice to me, never said anything harsh and wished me the best of luck. I thank him for that."
It did not take Kuhn long to make an imprint on Green Bay and coach Mike McCarthy. He has been on the active roster since '07.
This season, Kuhn's role became larger after starting running back Ryan Grant was lost for the season in Week 1. In addition to playing fullback, Kuhn also earned time as the feature back.
He responded with his best professional season. He finished the regular season with six touchdowns and was second on the team in carries (84) and third in rushing yards (281).
His performance has led to somewhat of a cult following in Green Bay.
"I'm very appreciative for that," Kuhn said. "The fans have taken to me. It's been a lot of fun. "I think it has a lot to do with the road I have traveled.
"They appreciate a guy who is willing to put in extra work to try to get to an every day active roster role."
Now the player who was an afterthought in Super Bowl XL has a chance to come back to haunt the team that released him.
"It has been a heck of a journey," he said. "Getting cut a couple of times ... There were a lot of ups and downs, being at home, not even being on a roster.
"You just try to make the best of it, always staying positive and working your hardest to get to where you want to go.
"That's what I've always tried to do."
"Don't get me wrong, [a Super Bowl ring] is precious and important to me. But I want to earn one on the field."
First Published February 2, 2011 12:36 am