Sunday was not only a big day for Green Bay Packer fans but for fans of Indiana State tight ends as well.
The Packers demolished their rivals in Chicago and clinched the number one seed in the NFC thanks to efforts from not one, but two Sycamore tight ends.
Robert Tonyan added to his breakout year with yet another touchdown, totaling 11 for the season and tying Paul Coffman’s 1983 record. In the second quarter, Dominique Dafney caught his first NFL touchdown in the form of a 13-yard pass from Rodgers. After the touchdown, Dafney kept his momentum going, crushing the Bears kick returner on a big special teams tackle.
While Tonyan became a household name this season, many observers, including Packers fans, probably had never heard of Dafney. The Packers’ tight end group has dealt with its share of injuries. Rookie Josiah Deguara’s season was cut short due to a torn ACL, while Jace Sternberger has had various injuries this year, most recently a concussion. John Lovett, who played a similar H-back role, was also lost to a knee injury.
The next man up was Dominique Dafney, a converted wide receiver who spent time at Iowa Western, the University of Iowa, and Indiana State. Dafney didn’t make an initial NFL roster but was eventually signed by the Indianapolis Colts in late August. His stay was short, and he was released during final cuts.
The Packers brought Dafney to the practice squad in October, following Deguara’s injury, where he stayed until he became an official part of the active roster on December 12th. Dafney made his first catch against the Titans and had his first touchdown against the Bears in the regular-season finale.
Dafney has impressed in his limited role thus far, doing everything the team has asked of him. The H-back role is important in LaFleur’s offense and often receives very little acclaim. Tight ends in general are known to have an arduous learning curve in adapting to the NFL, and as a former receiver, Dafney hasn’t spent a ton of time at the position. Still, it seems like Brian Gutekunst and the scouting staff have found a gem in Dafney.
“You’ve got to give credit to Gutey and our scouting department for finding Dafney,” coach Matt LaFleur said on Dafney. “You’d never know he’s a rookie. He can handle a lot. The game’s not too big for him, and that’s evident. When he walks in that huddle, there’s no doubt he knows he belongs, and it’s evident by the play on the field.”
The Packers will need every player on the roster to step up to make a deep playoff run. The road to Tampa may run through Lambeau, but it won’t be an easy journey. Role players like Dafney are vital to the success of the team.
“‘Daf’ is one of the most versatile dudes I’ve been around, and I’ve been around a lot of players who’ve done a lot for this team,” Davante Adams said. “He’s just a confident dude having fun out there. You can see when he scored, when he makes a block for somebody, just real unselfish and that goes a long way in this league and does a lot for our team.”
With praise from his coaches and teammates and the work he’s putting in on the field week to week, if you didn’t know who Dominique Dafney was before, you will now.
Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.