“We had joy, we had fun, We had seasons in the sun” was the chorus for the 1974 hit single “Seasons in the Sun.” The song itself was about someone dying too soon and saying goodbye to loved ones. Notably, it was Terry Jacks’ only hit, a one-hit wonder himself. This post is devoted to those NFL players who had their season in the sun, but for whatever reason, it did not last. Injuries felled many on this list, while others toiled in anonymity until they got their brief chance, and others had everything go right for one year.
Here are the biggest one-hit wonders of the NFL–a list restricted to those that touched the ball since we have more of a record to track changes in performance:
#1 ICKEY WOODS, 1988
Ickey Woods became a cultural phenomenon in 1988 as a rookie. He developed the still-famous Ickey Shuffle and paired with James Brooks in the Cincinnati Bengals’ backfield as the team surged to the Super Bowl. He finished with over 1,000 yards rushing, and topped the century mark in both of the playoff games to reach the Super Bowl.
Woods tore his ACL early the next year and never really recovered. He had 18 combined touchdowns and shuffles in the regular season and playoffs in 1988; 13 more for the rest of his career.
#2 GREG COOK, 1969
Greg Cook is one of the biggest “what-ifs” in NFL history. He was the 5th overall pick for the young Cincinnati franchise in 1969, and started immediately as a rookie. He led the AFL in passer rating and yards per attempt (with a whopping 9.4 yards per attempt) as a rookie, but an undiagnosed torn rotator cuff cost him dearly, and he never recovered. He completed one more pass–four years later–in the NFL. Cook passed away in 2012 of pneumonia.
#3 JOSH GORDON, 2013
Josh Gordon could still come back and make this moot, but we are now four years removed from his ridiculous season. Gordon led the NFL in receiving yards as a 22-year old and was selected first team all-pro. He’s played in 5 games since, and was suspended for the entire season in both 2015 and 2016.
#4 PATRICK JEFFERS, 1999
Patrick Jeffers went from walk-on at Virginia to late round pick of the Denver Broncos. He spent several years on the back end of rosters before having one magical year at age 26. Combining with Steve Beuerlein in Carolina, Jeffers had a five-week stretch to end the 1999 season with at least 100 yards in each game. He had 717 yards and 8 TDs over those five games.
That came crashing back down the next year when Jeffers tore his ACL in the preseason, and also required micro fracture surgery.
#5 PEYTON HILLIS, 2010
In 2009, Peyton Hillis had 54 rushing yards as a fullback in Denver. The next year, in Cleveland, he had 1,654 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns. He was the 2nd highest scorer in fantasy football at running back, behind only Arian Foster. It’s easy to forget just how out of control the Peyton Hillis train was before it completely de-railed. He was voted as the Madden cover. He gave us great photo back in 2010.
And then he scored 6 more touchdowns for the rest of his career and averaged 3.6 yards a carry.
#6 JOE SENSER, 1981
Joe Senser had a pretty good rookie year in 1980 (447 yards), and then exploded in 1981 for over 1,000 yards as a tight end. Thanks to a player strike and a knee injury the following year, Senser would have only 361 more yards for the rest of his career.
#7 DEREK ANDERSON, 2007
The Browns drafted Brady Quinn in the first round in 2007, and started Charlie Frye in the season opener. Frye was benched after only one start and it was Anderson who got the next one. He shocked the world with a 5 touchdown performance as the Browns beat the Bengals in a shootout, 51-45. Anderson, who was selected for the pro bowl, kept Quinn on the bench all season, and finished the year with 29 touchdown passes as Cleveland went 10-6, just missing the playoffs.
Anderson started parts of the next three years, but threw fewer than 20 touchdowns combined, and has been a backup for the last six years.
#8 TERDELL MIDDLETON, 1978
As a second year player out of Memphis, Middleton got an opportunity and put up over 1,100 rushing yards and 11 TDs in 1978 for the Packers. He never again topped 500 yards and scored four more touchdowns in his NFL career. Middleton passed away in 2015.