Once upon a time, a fellow named Keary Colbert had a very decent rookie year. That was 2004. Rodney Peete and Chris Chandler were still in the league.
Colbert, the rookie out of Southern California, caught 47 balls for 754 yards and five touchdowns, turning some heads with his impressive physical attributes. The next year, he was a fashionable sleeper fantasy pick and someone who was thought to have a bright future.
And that was pretty much the highlight of his career.
He didn't progress as hoped, and caught only 25 balls the next year. By '06 and '07, Colbert was being outperformed in Carolina by guys like Drew Carter and Alex Haynes. He spent '08 bouncing around on three different teams, making a significant impact nowhere. The Lions cut him in '09, and he spent that year and the next out of the NFL. He went back to USC and worked as a grad assistant.
And here he is in 2011, after three unproductive years and two unemployed ones, back on a real NFL roster with the Kansas City Chiefs. Comebacks like that just don't happen.
How did he get back? He just decided to work for it. He said this when the Chiefs added him to their 90-man roster back in early August:
"After spending a year working with the tight ends at USC as a graduate assistant, it ignited my passion and fire to compete at the highest level," Colbert said earlier this year on USC's website. "I've been training and getting myself physically prepared to make a comeback in the NFL. I plan to be a great veteran addition to any team's wide receiver corps."
I give him all the credit in the world. He said he was going to do it, then he did it, and I didn't think it could be done. Once a guy fades away like that, you just don't expect to hear from him ever again. He hasn't been a productive player since 2004. To put that in perspective, Darius Watts and Rashaun Woods were receivers drafted ahead of Colbert that same year. I'm guessing a comeback isn't in the cards for either of those fellows.
He's pretty far down the Chiefs' WR depth chart -- he's currently listed behind Dwayne Bowe and Terrence Copper at the Z receiver spot -- but guys with his history and age don't get a look unless they're really bringing something to the table. It'll be interesting to see what he can do.