South Dakotans in NFL Week 8: Don Gardner, Cade Johnson make NFL debuts

Argus Leader
Argus Leader

A pair of former South Dakota State Jackrabbits got the call from the practice squad to appear in their first NFL game this past week.

Cade Johnson, a 5-foot-10 wide receiver from Nebraska who went from walk-on to All-American at SDSU, was activated for the Seattle Seahawks and got on the field for one play in his team's 27-13 win over the New York Giants. It was the realization of a dream that looked at times like it might not happen. After Johnson chose to forego the 2020/21 season — which would've been his senior year — due to the pandemic, he appeared in line to be taken in the 2021 NFL Draft, but surprisingly went unselected. He signed with the Seahawks and spent virtually all of last year on the practice squad, and after returning to the team this year, had been back on the practice squad again until Sunday.

Don Gardner spent six years at South Dakota State, steadily working his way from redshirt on the scout team to special teams and backup to All-American cornerback and ace cover man.

But his sixth and final season was marred by injury (a broken arm) and we’ll never know how much that affected the 6-foot-1 Chicago native’s potential draft status.

So Gardner did things the hard way, signing with the Tampa Bay Bucs as an undrafted rookie free agent. He impressed enough to earn a spot on the Bucs’ practice squad, and this week for Tampa Bay’s Thursday night game, his dream officially came true, as Gardner was elevated to the active roster. He made his NFL debut on the opening kickoff of the game.

Tampa Bay lost to the Ravens, but Gardner saw the field for 14 plays, all on special teams. He did not record any statistics. Johnson and Gardner join Dallas Goedert, Christian Rozeboom and Pierre Strong as the fourth and fifth Jackrabbits to take the field in the NFL this season.

Here’s this week’s roundup of South Dakotans in the NFL.

Jack Cochrane, LB, Kansas City Chiefs (USD)

Did not play as the Chiefs had a bye.

Tom Compton, OL, Denver Broncos (USD)

The Broncos designated Compton for return from the PUP list, but did not activate him for Denver’s win over the Jaguars on Sunday morning in London.

Matt Farniok, OL, Dallas Cowboys (Washington High School)

Farniok was placed on injured reserve by the Cowboys earlier in the week after tearing his hamstring last week. He’s expected to miss up to six weeks.

Don Gardner, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (SDSU)

Made NFL debut in loss to Baltimore, seeing the field for 14 special teams plays.

Dennis Gardeck, LB, Arizona Cardinals (USF)

Missed his second consecutive game with an ankle injury as the Cardinals lost to the Vikings.

Dallas Goedert, TE, Philadelphia Eagles (Britton-Hecla High School, SDSU)

The Eagles improved to 7-0 with their 35-13 win over the Steelers, and Goedert had an efficient game, catching six passes for 64 yards on six targets.

CJ Ham, FB, Minnesota Vikings (Augustana)

Had a tackle on special teams and helped pave the way for Dalvin Cook to rush for 111 yards in the Vikings’ 34-26 win over the Cardinals.

Cade Johnson, WR, Seattle Seawhawks (SDSU)

Took the field for one play in the Seahawks' win over the Giants, his first action in a regular season NFL game.

Trey Pipkins, OL, Los Angeles Chargers (USF)

Did not play as the Chargers had a bye.

Riley Reiff, OL, Chicago Bears (Parkston High School)

After seeing limited action so far this season, Reiff got the start at right tackle for the Bears in their loss to the Cowboys.

Christian Rozeboom, LB, Los Angeles Rams (SDSU)

Recorded a tackle on special teams in the Rams’ loss to the 49ers.

Chris Streveler, QB, New York Jets (USD)Was elevated from the practice squad for the Jets' game against New England but was inactive.

Pierre Strong, RB, New England Patriots (SDSU)

Had a tackle on special teams but no carries or catches in the Patriots’ win over the Jets.

Derrek Tuszka, LB, Los Angeles Chargers (Warner High School)

Did not play as the Chargers had a bye.

On practice squads:

Kameron Cline, Colts (USD)

Chris Oladokun, Chiefs (SDSU)

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