HBO Hard Knocks' Most Memorable Players

This season of HBO’s Hard Knocks is a special one not only because it documents the return of the Rams to Los Angeles, but it’s also the show’s 15th anniversary. The must-see reality sports doc gives football fans an inside look into NFL training camps with unheard of access, Michael Bay camera techniques and Emmy-winning storytelling (can’t forget Liev Schreiber’s arm hair-raising narration) that shows the blood, sweat and tears that it takes to make an NFL roster. Over the past 15 years the show has presented viewers with familiar plots (the un-drafted rookie’s struggle, positional battles, coaching insights), but what’s most memorable are the compelling, funny, and crazy characters that arise during the show. Here’s a roster of our favorites and some updates on where they’re now.

Jared Goff
We’re only one episode into this latest Hard Knocks installment, but it’s fairly obvious that Jared Goff is going to be the star. The Rams’ number one pick overall might not even start their season opener, but he’s been the focus of not only of the HBO cameras, but the head coaches who fawn over the Ryan Gosling doppleganger like giddy teenage girls. “Hey guys, did you see him sling that pass in-between the two defenders?” Jeez, we get it.

Where he is now:
Only time will tell if Goff will be the star that the franchise needs him to be, but you can expect to see a lot more of him as the Rams return to Los Angeles will be a huge storyline this season and he develops into his role as the future face of the franchise.

Charles James
Hard Knocks has been on so long it has become just like any other reality show with contestants who seem to be there only to make a name for themselves. That’s what Charles James seemed to be like during the Houston Texans's season as the undrafted rookie cornerback with the “look at me” sock fetish seemed to mug for the cameras every chance he got. There’s James playing Madden with good buddy Odell Beckham Jr.. Oh there’s James asking coaches if he can play running back in a game and then promptly ripping off a 73-yard run (that was called back). It all seemed to be scripted, even his tug-at-the-heart-strings ending when he’s cut by Coach Jim O’Brien for being “too small” and then two days later gets picked up by the New York Jets. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction and James embodied it, which makes him one of the most memorable Hard Knocks character ever.

Where he is now:
The James fairytale ended happily ever after, even when the cameras stopped rolling. The Ravens picked him up and promptly cut him. But he was picked back up by the Texans again and even started a few games last year. He’s still on the team heading into the 2016 season.

Lauren Tannehill
The worst season of Hard Knocks was the one featuring the Miami Dolphins. From the mediocre team to Coach Jim Philbin playing goofy sitcom dad, it was just a snoozefest. That is, of course, until Lauren Tannehill appeared beside her rookie quarterback husband Ryan Tannehill. Fans can hate on the disappointing Tannehill (don’t hate the player, hate the game), but you can’t say anything bad about his way better half, with her blonde locks, model body and taste for hot pink workout pants.

Where she is now:
After turning down some reality show opportunities, Lauren became Instagram-famous for her modeling pictures, but has slowed down since recently giving birth to Tannehill twins.

Antonio Cromartie
Antonio Cromartie is one of the top cornerbacks of his generation, but will always be remembered as the bad dad who couldn’t remember his own kids' name during a memorable moment during the New York Jets season of the show. The struggle was real for Cromartie who, at the time, had spawned eight kids with seven women across the country and made national headlines.

Where he is now:
After a stint with the Arizona Cardinals Cromartie is currently a free agent, and he better find a job like yesterday because he just had twins with his wife despite having a vasectomy. You can’t make this up.

Chad Johnson
Every good show needs drama and that was Chad Johnson’s “real” middle name. The wide receiver formerly known as “Ochocinco” was one of the NFL’s most exciting wide receivers before his fall from grace. The love-him-or-hate-him Johnson was supposed to be a centerpiece of the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Knocks season, but was released after being arrested on domestic violence charges after allegedly assaulting his then-wife, reality show start Evelyn Lozada. It was one of the show’s most awkward, solemn, and personal moments as we literally watched a dude’s life crumbling before our eyes.

Where he is now:
Johnson never played another down in the NFL again. After flaming out in the CFL, he was doing an NFL podcast and Tweeted to his former wide receiver coach, Hue Jackson, who is now the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, if he could "try his hand" at coaching. He’s currently working as a guest coach with the Browns.

Tim Johnson
The first season of Hard Knocks featured the Baltimore Ravens, who set the tone and narrative for future installments. The defending Super Bowl champion Ravens rookies set the bar high for the annual rookie talent competition that’s a highlight of every season. Undrafted free agent linebacker Tim Johnson stole the 2001 show with his dead-on Shannon Sharpe impersonation, complete with pulled down fishing hat, non-stop lip-licking and Sylvester the Cat voice. Best yet, Sharpe was his biggest fan, falling over with laughter with Ray Lewis. The word “restitution” will never be the same.

Where he is now:
Johnson bounced around the NFL for a couple seasons before finding playing time with Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League in 2009. He’s now executive director of a namesake non-profit organization designed and created to assist local at-risk youth.

Todd Lowber
You probably haven’t heard the name Todd Lowber since 2008 when his underdog attempt to make the Dallas Cowboys roster was heavily covered by Hard Knocks’ cameras. Lowber was the classic “everyman" fan favorite, who didn’t play a down of college football (he was a track star), but was fighting for his dream to play in the NFL. We laughed, cheered and then cried with Lowber as he was released during the final cuts.

Where he is now:
Lowber did have his NFL dream come true, winning a Super Bowl ring as a member of the Giants' practice squad in Super Bowl XLII. After a bit of internet sleuthing, according to LinkedIn he now works at the U.S. Department of State and his file is classified. Seriously.

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