What Is The 109 Club?
The ‘109 club’ is the name I gave to a very exclusive group of players who had scored from 109-yards during an NFL game, but what makes that number so special?
A regulation NFL field of play measures 100 yards long. The two endzones add an additional 10 yards each, bringing the total length to 120 yards. It is impossible to score a full-length touchdown as a player cannot start from the line at the back of their endzone. The officials will rule them out of bounds for either a safety or a touchback. This means a player must start at least 119 yards from the opposite end of the field. However, a player cannot claim a 119-yard touchdown either. This is because a play officially ends when the ball breaks the goal line. Therefore, the maximum distance from which a player can score is 109-yards.
A player cannot score a 109-yard touchdown on an offensive drive, as the furthest back a team can snap the ball to start a play is on the one-yard line. Since only the forward yards gained count towards the play length, the furthest you can score an offensive touchdown is 99-yards. So this leaves only two options to score the illustrious 109-yard touchdown. A player can either intercept a pass nine-yards deep into their endzone and take it to the house or return a kick or a punt from the same distance. Only two players have managed to join the ‘109 Club’ in the NFL’s 100 years history. Both of these men achieved this feat by returning two different types of kicks, meaning no player in NFL history has yet to accomplished this using the interception method.
What is the easiest way to gain entry into the club?
Returning a kick or a punt for a touchdown from any distance is exceptionally challenging, but which one is more likely to result in a 109-yard touchdown?
According to Pro Football Reference, only eight punt returns resulted in six-points during the 2020 season. Jacksonville Jangurs’s Keelan Cole registered the furthest punt return touchdown of the season, taking it to the house from 91-yards against the Green Bay Packers. The highest average yards-per-return was Gunner Olszewski’s 17.3. The New England Patriot Wide Receiver returned a total of 20 punts throughout the season, gaining 346 yards, the most in the league, but only managed one touchdown.
Kick returns produced one fewer touchdowns than punt returns during the 2020 season. However, they did provide the longest touchdown of the season. Chicago Bears’ Cordarrelle Patterson, a man we will talk about later, scored against the Minnesota Vikings from 104-yards out. Patterson also attempted the most kickoff returns in league with 35, gaining a league-leading 1017 yards with one return touchdown to his name. The Bears’ return specialist had the second-highest kick return average, with Andre Roberts earning the highest. The Buffalo Bills player managed to gain an average of 30.0 yards from 32 kickoffs. However, his season-longest return was 60-yards. This effort only placed 13th in the league for longest return, 44 yards shy of the highest.
Alongside the extreme difficulty of returning either a kick or a punt, a player must rely on their opposition to find the back of the endzone before they can even try a 109-yard attempt. This is probably the most unlikely thing to happen whilst trying to accomplish this feat. Punters rarely aim their deliveries into the endzone as it will result in a touchback if it hits the turf. A touchback places the returning team on the 25-yard line to start their next drive, so Punters will aim to box them in the 10-yard line instead. If a punt does make it into the endzone, the smartest thing the returner can do is leave it or call a fair catch and accept the touchback. Hypothetically, if Gunner Olszewski returned a punt from the back of the endzone, his league-high average of 17.3 would see his offence start their next drive 17-yards behind where a touchback put them.
A kick return has slightly improved chances of yielding results as the ball is more likely to fall in the endzone than from a punt. However, in 2020, 60.59% of all kickoffs resulted in a touchback either through choice or because the ball went out of bounds. The statistically top ten kick returners of the 2020 season averaged 26.3 yards from 269 combined attempts, gaining just 1.3 yards more than what a touchback would give them.
The touchback rule negates the risk of fumbling the ball. However, it also denies a team a chance to gain better field position or a return touchdown. According to Pro Football Reference, 770 punts returns were attempted throughout the 2020 season. 55 of these returns ended in a fumble whereas only eight resulted in a touchdown. The returning teams only managed to take the ball at least 20 yards 60 times, a mere 7.79%, with 16 of these eclipsing 40 yards.
Kick returns produced a far higher percentage of 20+ yard plays than punt returns, with 59.76% of the 984 attempts successfully reaching that distance. Although, only 9.01% of these would register a 40 yard or more return. This method also saw the returner fumble the ball far less than from a punt, with only 17 recorded through the season.
Despite registering fewer touchdowns in 2020 than punt returns, the most likely method a player has to enter the ‘109 club’ statistically is from a kick return. There are more chances for a player to attempt to go the distance from this method since punters will rarely, if ever, purposely aim for the endzone. Kick returners are also far less likely to accept the touchback than punt returners. The kicking team will most likely start far further back in the field than a punt, giving the returner more time to bring the ball out. Furthermore, kick returns dominate punt returns in yards-gained percentages. 59.76% of kicks will be returned to at least the 20-yard line, compared to just 7.79% from a punt. Finally, kick returners are significantly less prone to fumble the ball, with punts 30.91% more likely to relinquish the ball.
Who are the current ‘109 Club’ Members?
There are only two members of the ‘109 club’ as of this article. As our research suggested, both men returned a kick to achieve this incredibly rare feat. However, both were through different circumstances. Coincidentally, the only two 109-yard touchdowns happened in the same stadium just six years apart.Embed from Getty Images
The inaugural member of the ‘109 club’ was Antonio Cromartie. The San Diego Chargers drafted the Tallahassee native 19th overall in 2006 despite an anterior cruciate ligament tear forcing him to miss his entire junior season for the Florida State Seminoles Football team.
Before his injury, the four-star recruit’s impressive potential shone through as his performances at nickleback and as a kick returner caught the NFL scouts’ eye. Cromartie’s on-field intelligence and athletic abilities made him a versatile player during his high school career, playing both in the offence and defence. Bobby Bowden, the Seminoles’ legendary coach, toyed with the idea of playing Cromartie at wide receiver during his junior season. However, his injury-issues derailed those plans.
Alongside Football, Cromartie enjoyed a reasonably successful college track career. His primary focus was the 200 and 400 metres, where he posted career-best times of 21.27 and 46.39 seconds respectively. The Lincoln high school alumni was a member of the FSU track team that captured the ACC championship in 2004.
After being drafted by the Chargers, Cromartie signed a 5-year, $13.5 million contract with the franchise. The majority of his first season action was on Special Teams, with chances at cornerback coming few and far between. However, the former FSU man was handed some punt and kick return duties in the second half of the season.
His most notable contribution of the 2006 season took place during the week 12 clash against the Oakland Raiders. Following an Aaron Brooks touchdown pass gave Oakland a 7-0 lead, the rookie returned a kickoff for 91 yards, the longest return the Chargers had managed in five years. This play set up LaDainian Tomlinson to score from 2-yards to tie the game, with San Diego going on to win the game 21-14.
The 2007 season was Cromartie’s breakthrough season. He earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honours during week eight after a two-interception performance against the Houston Texans. One of these picks was returned for a 70-yard touchdown before adding his second of the game from a fumble recovery.
Two weeks later, the Tallahassee-born cornerback made his first start in the NFL against the Indianapolis Colts due to an injury to the regular starter Quentin Jammer. Cromartie made the most of this opportunity, intercepting the legendary quarterback Peyton Manning three times, including a highlight reel, one-handed leaping grab in front of Reggie Wayne. The Chargers narrowly beat the Colts 23-21 with Cromartie named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for the second time of the season.
The former first-round pick earned the starting cornerback spot on a full-time basis before their week 12 game against the Baltimore Ravens, replacing Drayton Florence. Three weeks after, he broke the franchise record for most interceptions in a single season, securing his 10th against the Detroit Lions. He also finished the regular season as the NFL leader in picks and earned his first Pro Bowl selection.
Cromartie once again terrorised Payton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, this time in the playoffs. The former LSU man once again intercepted the now-Hall of Fame quarterback whilst also forcing Marvin Harrison to fumble the ball. This impressive performance helped the Chargers knock out the defending Super Bowl champions. Their playoff run would come to an end in the next round as the San Diego franchise lost the AFC Championship game to the New England Patriots.
The 2007 season was also when Cromartie became the first entry in the ‘109 club’. During the Chargers’ Week nine visit to The Metrodome, the Minnesota Vikings’ kicker Ryan Longwell took to the field to attempt a 58-yard field goal. Since the distance was so great and with only four seconds until half-time, Cromartie was instructed to position himself in the endzone in case the kick fell short. The ball flew just shy of the goalposts, allowing the Chargers’ cornerback to catch the ball with his feet only two inches away from the back of the endzone. Cromartie brought the ball out, forcing one Viking to miss a tackle before breaking free down the right-hand side of the field. The combination of his pace and good blocking from his teammates allowed the Florida native to reach the endzone, creating history in the process by scoring the first-ever 109-yard touchdown. Remarkably, this was not the only record set during this game. The Vikings’ Adrian Peterson gained an incredible 296 yards, setting the record for most rushing yards in a single game in NFL history. Minnesota took the victory in this historic game as they defeated San Diego 35-17.
Cromartie followed up his fantastic 2007 season with two sub-par years as a Charger. The former LSU man gained just two interceptions during the 2008 season. However, he would later announce that he had played the entire year with a broken hip. During the 2009 season, Cromartie once again failed to recapture the form he had two years prior, only registering three interceptions and 33 tackles. This would be his last season in San Diego as he was traded to the New York Jets on March 4th, 2010 for what turned into a second-round 2011 draft pick.
Cromartie’s form picked up in New York, although his inconsistency stopped him from being his 2007 self. During his first game in a green jersey, he quickly endeared himself to the Metlife Stadium crowd by intercepting a wayward pass from Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and returning it for 66 yards. This inception was the first of three the cornerback gained throughout the 2010 season. He broke up eight more passes than his last season at the Chargers. However, he was also responsible for allowing seven touchdowns against the Jets.
The former first-round pick’s most notable contribution during the season once again came against the Indianapolis Colts, this time in the Playoff Wildcard round. With less than a minute to go and the Colts leading by two, Cromartie returned kickoff 46 yards, giving the Jets excellent field positioning for their final drive. Nick Folk scored the game-winning field goal with three seconds on the clock to send the New York side through in the playoffs. After defeating the New England Patriots in the divisional round, the Jets were eliminated in the AFC Championship game by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Prior to the 2011 season, the Jets decided to re-sign Cromartie to a four-year $32 million contract. The former Seminole improved his numbers from the season prior, earning four interceptions, 36 solo tackles and forced a fumble. However, his inconsistency was an issue again. His performances during the first three weeks of the season highlighted this. The opening game against the Dallas Cowboys was a disaster for the cornerback as he was responsible for two of the visitor’s touchdowns. He bounced back the week after by putting in an AFC Defender of the Week performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He produced two interceptions during the Jets’ dominating 32-3 victory. week three’s game against the Oakland Raiders saw another calamitous performance from the 2007 all-pro player as the Jets suffered their first defeat of the season. He committed four fouls for 46 yards and fumbling a kickoff return which the Raiders turned into the go-ahead touchdown. He would also suffer an injury during the second half of the game, leaving the game before being diagnosed with bruised ribs and a pulmonary contusion. Despite this, he managed to feature in every game of the Jets season.
Cromartie followed up this inconsistent season with back-to-back Pro Bowl years, although his 2013 season saw a steep decline in his abilities. The former FSU man won the 2012 Jets’ MVP award and was ranked as the PFF 16th best cornerback in the league, recording three interceptions, 30 solo tackles, 12 passes broken up and one defensive touchdown. The Pro-Bowler was one of the few bright spots in a dark season for the New York side, who finished 6-10.
Going into the 2013 season, Cromartie suffered another hip injury which saw him miss out on a full training camp. This injury could be to blame for the former Chargers’ decline as he became a liability to the Jets in the backfield. Ten weeks into the season, the Pro-Bowler was placed 99th in the PFF cornerback rankings, a staggering 83 places lower than a season before. With six games still to play, he allowed seven more receptions, 64 yards allowed, ten fewer passes defended and let the opposing quarterback earn a 33.7 higher score than the season before. Cromartie relied on his blistering speed to cover his technical weakness. However, the mixture of age and injures caused the former college track athlete’s physical abilities to deteriorate. The cornerback gave the receiver he was marking a free release throughout his career, knowing he could out-pace him before the ball arrived but could not adjust now he could not keep up with them. This resulted in him giving up big yards when he was targeted.
Cromartie also became far timider on the line of scrimmage. The previous season he had great success in jamming receivers before they could break free, however this season, he tended to back off from his man, allowing separation and giving his opponent an easy opportunity to blitz past him. Despite these woes, the Florida-born player was still called up to the Pro-Bowl for the third time in his career. However, this time he was a replacement. His time as a Jet would come to an end following this woeful season as the New York franchise released him on March 9th, 2014
Cromartie’s career would continue in Arizona as the Cardinals signed him to a one-year contract. The struggling cornerback had somewhat of a bounce-back season, earning three interceptions, 44 solo tackles and a touchdown in the 2014 season. Unlike the previous season, his Pro-Bowl selection was well deserved. The Cardinals went 11-5 during the regular season but fell in the Wild Card game to the Carolina Panthers 27-16.
After the season, Arizona’s defensive-coordinator Todd Bowles accepted the New York Jets Head Coach role. Todd decided to bring Cromartie back to his former club with him, signing him to a four-year, $32 million deal. The decision turned out poorly for the New York franchise as the former first-round pick had an awful season. Despite battling leg injuries throughout the season, he started 15 of the 16 games, but his impact was minimal at best. The Pro-Bowler registered his fewest number of tackles since his rookie season, with 26. He also failed to record a single interception and allowed a terrible 106.9 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks. At the end of the season, just one year into his four-year contract, the Jets once again released the cornerback.
Cromartie would play his final season in the NFL for the team he dominated during his time in San Diego, the Indianapolis Colts. Despite being cut after just four games, his time as a Colt was interesting and controversial. The FSU Alumni started every game he featured in before his release. Cromartie was one of the few players that took a knee during the national anthem in 2016, protesting social injustice and police brutality. Indianapolis executives allegedly told him to get up during his protest in week three before asking him to refrain from kneeling before week four’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London, England. The now-veteran player ignored them and kneeled anyway and was subsequently benched at half-time.
Cromartie was released after this game, blaming his departure entirely on his protest, saying “It ain’t have nothing to do with my age, it ain’t have nothing to do with my style of play. It was because I took a knee.” Many were quick to point out how the now-former Colt was also released a year prior and had clearly shown signs of weakness in his game. However, the ‘109 club’ member remains adamant that this was the sole reason. After failing to find a club for the 2017 season, Cromartie announced his retirement from the game on March 5th, 2018 at 33 years old.
The second and final member of the ‘109 club’ is Cordarrelle Patterson. The man they call ‘Flash’ is widely considered one of the most outstanding return specialists in NFL history. Patterson followed in the footsteps of legendary players such as Aaron Rodgers, Larry Allen and the infamous O.J Simpson by starting his college football career at the JUCO level. Before playing NJCAA, The Rock Hill, South Carolina native attended the North Carolina Tech Preparatory Christian Academy after failing to attract any college Division one offers upon leaving Northwestern High School and did not play the sport for a year.
However, he would transfer in 2010 to Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, where he enjoyed two highly successful years, earning consecutive NJCAA All-American honours in 2010 and 2011. To this day, he still holds over a dozen records at his former community college, most notably: the most career receiving yards with 1832, most career total touchdowns, scoring 36, most career points with 216, highest career kickoff return average, which was 41.9 and most career all-purpose yards, gaining 3379.
Like Cromartie, Patterson also competed in track and field events whilst in Kansas. His primary events were the 100 and 200-metre dash, with personal best times of 10.33 and 21.19 seconds respectively. He also competed in the long jump where he earned a collegiate-best jump of 6.85 meters (22 ft, 4.5 in) during the Southwestern Invitational Championships. He also competed in various relay races, most notably the 4×100 where he was a part of the Hutchinson Community College team that recorded a season-best tie of 40.32 seconds.
Following his fantastic 2012 season, Patterson was considered the country’s top JUCO player and was rated as a 5-star prospect. This led to a flurry of scholarship offers from the upper-tier Division one college programs such as LSU, Auburn, and Georgia. However, the hot-prospect ultimately decided to choose the University of Tennessee. Head Coach Derek Dooley utilised Patterson’s offensive versatility throughout his singular year as a UT Player, using him as a receiver, an all-purpose running back, a wildcat quarterback and a return specialist. Tennessee may have had a disappointing season, going 5-7, but ‘Flash’s’ raw talent shone through. The offensive all-rounder scored at least one touchdown from four different methods, receiving, rushing, kick and punt returning, throughout his 12 games, totalling ten touchdowns. Patterson also claimed yet another accolade as he broke the school record for most all-purpose yards in a season with 1856. This record number was also enough to rank him first in the SEC and tied 18th in the entire NCAA.
On January 9th, 2013, Patterson announced he would leave college after just one year and declare for the 2013 NFL Draft. The Minnesota Vikings traded a second, third, fourth and seventh-round pick to the New England Patriots for the 29th overall selection, which they used to bring the South Carolina man to Minneapolis. The rookie hit the ground running in the NFL, impressing throughout the 2013 season. He scored his first NFL touchdown in just his second game against the Chicago Bears, returning the opening kickoff to the endzone for a 105-yard score. Only one month into his pro career, the former JUCO standout earned his first accolade as he was named the NFC Special Team Player of the Month.
Patterson caught his first touchdown pass in the big leagues for a two-yard reception in the Vikings 34-27 victory against Washington on Week 10. His first rushing touchdown came three weeks later in their second divisional game against the Bears, carrying the ball for 33 yards before finding the endzone. The following week, the South Carolinan scored his career-longest recovering touchdown after taking bubble screen pass 79 yards to the house with just 45 seconds left of the game.
The season’s final match saw the Vikings bid farewell to the Metrodome. After the game, the stadium was demolished, with the team playing their next two season at the TCF Bank Stadium before moving into their new home, the U.S. Bank Stadium, in 2016. Minnesota left their beloved stadium with a 14/13 victory against the Detroit Lions, with Patterson scoring the last two touchdowns of the stadium’s history. His first came from a 50-yard running attempt, setting the franchise record for longest rushing touchdown from a receiver. The second touchdown occurred in the final quarter, catching an 8-yard pass in the endzone. The former TU man impressed during his rookie year, earning a Pro Bowl selection and was named in the First-Team All-Pro as a kick returner. He set two franchise records during the season, the highest kick return average in a season with 32.4 yards, most kickoff return yards in a season with 1393 and tied the most kickoff return touchdowns in a season record with two. He also became the first NFL player to score a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown, a 75-yard touchdown catch, and a 50-yard rushing touchdown in the same season.
Patterson’s most memorable moment of his debut season occurred on week eight against the Green Bay Packers. In the same venue where Antonio Cromartie first accomplished it, the rookie Viking would join the ‘109 Club’. Patterson barely stayed inbound on the game’s opening kickoff whilst catching the ball at the back of the endzone. His return was significantly more challenging than Cormartie’s six years early as the Vikings first-rounder drove through the middle of the field, squeezing through small openings at full speed before impressively making a defender miss a diving tackle. He broke off to the field’s left-hand side as he ran into the endzone uncontested to tie the record and join the club. In total, Patterson gained 254-yards during the divisional clash but found himself on the losing team as the Packers left Minnesota with a 41-33 victory. For his impressive, record-tying performance, ‘Flash’ won the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week award.
During his second professional season, Patterson struggled under the Vikings’ new head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner. The utility player also failed to connect with Minnesota’s new quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who they drafted in the first round on the 2014 draft. The TU alumni completed 12 fewer passes for 85 less yards compared to his rookie season. His return yards also dropped dramatically, only achieving 871 yards with an average of 25.62 per return. These totals were a steep decline from his 1394 yards gained with a 32.40 average per return he totalled a year prior. Despite earning All-Pro and Pro-Bowl honours in 2013, Patterson lost his starting receiving place to Charles Johnson from the Vikings practise squad, finding himself fourth in the team’s depth chart by the season’s end.
Patterson continued to slip in the depth chart during the 2015 season. The Vikings added the veteran receiver Mike Wallace and drafted the future 2020 NFL receptions and receiving yards leader Stefon Diggs in the fifth round. These additions relegated ‘Flash’ to return duties only as he made just two receptions all season. However, he did rediscover his kick returning form, gaining 1019 overall yards, averaging 31.84 yards per return. The Hutchinson Community College legend also added two more return touchdowns to his growing collection. His first came in Week ten against the Oakland Raiders, taking the ball 93-yards before reaching the endzone. The second and final touchdown was during a crushing 38-7 home defeat to the Seatle Seahawks. The 2015 Second-team All-Pro returner scored the Vikings’ only points as he took the ball to the house from 101-yards.
In what would be his final season in Minneapolis, Patterson would once again score a return touchdown in 2016 despite having seven fewer attempts than the season before. The touchdown came during the Vikings’ week eleven contest against the Arizona Cardinals, with ‘Flash’ returning the ball 104-yards before reaching the endzone. His performances as a returner earned him his second First-Team All-Pro and Pro-Bowl honours. Whilst the all-rounder still had his struggles in the receiving game, his stats greatly improved compared to the previous professional seasons. The former TU player earned his highest catch percentage as a Viking, with 74.3%, whilst gaining 453 yards from 53 receptions. He also claimed two reviving touchdowns during the season, scoring against the New York Giants and Houston Texans in consecutive weeks.
Patterson departed from the Vikings at the end of his contract in 2017. He left Minnesota as the player with the most kick return yards and most games with 100 kick return yards in franchise history. He also tied the team records for the most kicks returned for a touchdown with Percy Harvin and scoring the most special team touchdowns with Marcus Sherels.
On March 13th, 2017, Patterson moved out west, signing with the Oakland Raiders on a two-year, $8.5 million deal. The Silver and Black already possessed an impressive receiving unit, leaving ‘Flash’ fourth in the depth chart behind Michael Crabtree, Amari Cooper and Seth Roberts. He was only targeted 42 times during the season, the fifth most in the team, receiving 73.8% of these attempts whilst gaining 309 yards. The former JUCO player did not register a receiving touchdown in 2017, although he would find the endzone twice during rushing attempts. Both of these touchdowns came after 40 yards+ attempts. His first occurred during the Raiders Week two 45-20 victory against the New York Jets as he took the ball 43-yards for the six-points. Four weeks later, the former Viking claimed his second touchdown, this time from 47-yards out during the Raiders narrow 17-16 defeat to state rivals the Los Angles Chargers. As expected, Patterson was Oakland’s primary kick return. He saw fewer return attempts for the second season in a row, with opposition kickers actively avoiding the dangerous returner. Despite this, the South Carolinan still managed to gain 538 yards from 19 attempts, averaging 28.3 yards-per-attempt. However, he failed to score a return touchdown during the season.
Patterson only spent one season in Oakland as he, alongside a sixth-round draft pick, was traded to the New England Patriots for a fifth-round pick on March 18th, 2018. The former first-round pick saw more action as a running back than a receiver during the Patriots 2018 season. The versatile player had 42 rushing attempts for 228 yards. His most impressive rushing game of the season came against the Green Bay Packers on week nine. The Rock Hill native led his team in rushing with 61-yard from 11 carries, converting one of these runs for a 5-yard touchdown. During New England’s successful regular season, Patterson recorded 21 catches, gaining 247 receiving yards and scoring three touchdowns. He scored against Indianapolis Colts from a one-yard Tom Brady pass and in both the home and away fixtures against the Miami Dolphins. The TU alumni’s first touchdown came from 55-yards at the Gillette Stadium during week four, with his second from 37-yards at the Hard Rock Stadium during week fourteen. Once again, ‘Flash’ earned Second-Team All-Pro honours as a kick returner. The former Viking gained 663 yards from 23 return attempts. He scored his only return touchdown of the season from 95-yards in a tight 38-31 victory against the Chicago Bears on Week seven.
The Patriots advanced to the playoffs, winning the AFC East with an 11-5 record. This was the first time Patterson would experience playoff football. His most impactful moment of New England’s postseason run occurred during the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs. The former 5-star prospect earned two receptions for 18-yards whilst delivering 80 kick return yards in three attempts during the Patriots 37-31 overtime victory. In the crowning moment of his career, Patterson made his first and currently only Super Bowl appearance as New England faced the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII. The All-Pro player only had one chance to return a kick as the Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein kicked just three times during the game. This chance happened during the opening kickoff. The kicker himself stopped the former Hutchinson Community College star from joining Hall of Famer Devin Hester as the only man to score from the first kick of a Super Bowl with a last-ditch grab that knocked him out of bounds on the 35-yard line. After that scare, Zuerlein purposely aimed the other two kicks away from ‘Flash’, one landing in the hands of Jojo Natson instead with the other going for a touchback. Patterson gained 32-yards from 4 receptions and 10-yards from 3 rushing attempts on the offence. The Patriots grinded out a 13-3 victory to lift the Lombardi Trophy for the record-tying sixth time, with ‘Flash’ winning his first and so far only Super Bowl ring.
Despite the success during the 2018 season, Patterson left the New England Patriots to join the Chicago Bears on March 13th, 2019, with the Illinois franchise offering him a two-year, $10 million contract. His first season in the Windy City saw him again named the First-Team All-Pro kick returner and selected for the Pro-Bowl. The versatile star topped the league in return yards, gaining 825 from 28 attempts, averaging 29.5 yards per return. This average was the second-highest in Franchise history, behind the all-time great Gale Sayers. ‘Flash’ scored his only return touchdown of the season during the Bears’ week seven clash against the New Orleans Saints, taking the ball yards to the house. For his performances, he earned the NFC Special Teams Player of the Month for the second time of his career. He was also the first Bears player to win this award since the Legendary Devin Hester eight years prior. Like in New England, Patterson saw more success in the rushing game than receiving. The former Super Bowl winner claimed 103 rushing yards from 17 attempts, averaging 6.06 yards per attempt. In the receiving game, he managed 83 yards from 11 receptions, with a catch rate of 64.7%
Patterson stayed with the Bears during the 2020 season, marking this the first time the TU alumni did not move teams since 2016. Before the season started, the NFL named the former first-rounder in their 2010s All-Decade Team as a returner. This achievement was not the only prestigious accolade he earned in 2020. On Monday Night Football during their Week ten battle against his former team the Minnesota Vikings, Patterson tied the record for the NFL’s all-time most kickoff return touchdowns in a career. ‘Flash’ took the second-half kickoff to the endzone from 104-yards, which was the tied longest return of the season. This touchdown also set the franchise record for the longest kickoff return in team history, surpassing Gale Sayers record which stood for 53 years. Once again, the Rock Hill native led the league in kick return yards, surprising the 1000 point mark for the third time in his career, finishing with 1017 yards. Unsurprisingly, he was named as the First-Team All-Pro kick returner and a Pro-bowler for the fourth time of his career.
Throughout the 2020 season, Patterson endeared himself to the Chicago fans by excitingly and bizarrely yelling “How ’bout dem Bears?!” into a camera before running off laughing each time the Illinois franchise were victorious. The Bears gave the utility player the most rushing attempts of his career, attempting 64 rushes for a career-high 232-yards. ‘Flash’ was still sparsely used as a receiver, earning 132 yards from 21 catches.
At the time of writing this article, Patterson is a member of the Atlanta Falcons, joining after his Chicago contract expired in 2021. With his career far from over, it would not be a surprise if he moved onto nine career return touchdowns, claiming the NFL’s All-Time Kickoff Return Touchdown Leader crown for himself.
In the NFL’s 101 year existence, only Cromartie and Patterson, two very unique talents, earned their spot in the ‘109 Club’. If a player were to become the third entry into the club, they would need to be courageous enough to make the risky decision to take the ball out of the endzone, have a kicker deliver them the perfect kick to the back of the endzone, have the speed and strength to break and avoid tackles and rely on their teammates to provide the ideal blocks for him.
It may also help if they ran track in college and if the Minnesota Vikings are also involved.