John Kuhn is 31 years old.

By most professional standards, he would have most of his working life ahead of him.

The Dover High School graduate, however, is not judged by most professional standards.

He's judged by NFL standards, and under that standard he is most definitely in the twilight of his career.

Kuhn, if you haven't heard, is now a free agent looking for a job.

That's a tough position for any 30-something in the youth-obsessed NFL, but it's especially tough for fullbacks, who have seen their position virtually eliminated by many teams in the pass-happy league.

Many franchises have opted to go with one-back, no-huddle offenses, with a heavy emphasis on multiple wideouts, tight ends and H-backs. The blocking fullback has often been left by the curb.


That could severely limit the suitors for Kuhn, who suddenly finds himself at a crossroads in his career.

Fortunately for Kuhn, the door to his former employer, the Green Bay Packers, has not been completely closed.

In fact, eventually re-signing with Green Bay is probably Kuhn's most likely avenue to remain in the league.

Factors in his favor: He has several factors working in his favor.

During his seven years with the Packers, he has become a fan favorite with the Cheeseheads, who bellow "Kuuuuuhn" nearly every time he gets one of his infrequent touches of the ball.

He's also good friends with Aaron Rodgers, the team's superstar quarterback. It's always good to have the team's best player in your corner.


And he has produced for the Packers as a pass blocker, an outlet receiver, a short-yardage runner and a special teams performer. He made the Pro Bowl in 2011 and last season he made one of the pivotal plays of Green Bay's season, when he got a chip block on Chicago defensive end Julius Peppers. That slowed Peppers enough to allow Rodgers to complete a game-winning, 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb in the final minute of the regular-season finale. That win put the Packers into the playoffs.

"I have to say he's probably the best pass protector, third-down back in the league as far as protection," said Alex Van Pelt, who coached Packers running backs last season, shortly after the season. "At certain points, you have a comfort level with John that's huge. That would be a hole we'd have to fill."

Van Pelt's complimentary words, however, didn't prevent the Packers from allowing Kuhn to become a free agent, despite the fact that the team is reportedly $30 million under the salary cap.

In the offseason, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said he wants his backs, including Offensive Rookie of the Year Eddie Lacy, to become better on third down. That way, the back doesn't have to leave the field and slow the team's no-huddle offense. That was a sign that Kuhn's value to the team might be minimized. After all, he was usually the back that came into the game on third down.

Kuhn is coming off a three-year, $7.6 million contract with Green Bay. If he wants to stay in the NFL, he will almost certainly have accept a pay cut. In fact, his only option may be a one-year deal for the veteran minimum of $855,000.

That's not exactly chump change, but it does represent a pay cut of more than 60 percent.

That can be tough to take for a prideful man, but it's the harsh reality of life in the NFL, where players are completely disposable, especially when they're over 30 at a devalued position.

Beating the odds: But no matter what happens with Kuhn in the future, he's already beaten astronomical odds.

He was not highly recruited out of Dover and eventually signed on with NCAA Division II Shippensburg University, where he enjoyed a record-setting career.

He was undrafted by the NFL, but still managed to earn a spot on the Pittsburgh Steelers' practice squad. The Steelers eventually released him, but he latched on with Green Bay and soon became an integral part of one of the league's best offenses and helped the Packers win a Super Bowl in 2011.

He's been in the league for eight years, which is more than twice the length of an average career for an NFL back.

And when his NFL career finally does end, you can rest assured that Kuhn will find a successful life after football. After all, he was an Academic All-American at Shippensburg. The articulate Kuhn may even land a job in broadcasting.

But here's hoping that Kuhn's NFL playing career isn't over quite yet. Hopefully he can reach some sort of deal to remain with the Packers.

Then next fall, his fans here in York County will get to see the Dover grad continue one of more unlikely success stories in pro football history.

— Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at