GREEN BAY – If draft weekend was a dream come true for eight Green Bay Packers picks, this weekend is potentially the start of a dream for dozens of other rookies.
The Packers’ annual rookie orientation began on Thursday, with draftees, undrafted rookies and tryout players arriving in Green Bay for a whirlwind tour of professional football.
Their next three days will include, among other things, medical checks, meetings and two practices in the Don Hutson Center to get their first taste of life in the NFL.
The weekend’s history proves no one can truly be counted out, no matter how long their odds.
Back in 2012, wide receiver Jarrett Boykin came to rookie orientation as nothing but a tryout player, earned a contract and made the final roster out of training camp.
One year later, he was the Packers’ third-leading receiver with 49 catches for 681 yards and three touchdowns in 2013.
Last year, defensive lineman Luther Robinson was a tryout guy, too (pictured above, center, second jersey number 7, at last year's rookie orientation). He got a contract, landed on the practice squad following training camp and was soon signed to the active roster. In Week 5, he was in Christian Ponder’s face as the Minnesota quarterback threw a pick-six to Julius Peppers.
Most years, the Packers have signed a few of the tryout players to fill out their 90-man offseason roster. They get two practices to try to stand out from the crowd.
The undrafted rookies who already have contracts are making their first impressions as well.
Five years ago, rookie orientation weekend was cornerback Sam Shields’ debut in a Packers uniform, and his transition from college wide receiver began in earnest. Now, of course, Shields is the Packers’ No. 1 corner.
Last year, two undrafted rookies donning a Packers helmet for the first time in rookie orientation were outside linebacker Jayrone Elliott and defensive lineman Mike Pennel.
Those two brought the Packers’ total in the last five years of undrafted rookies making the opening-day 53-man roster to 15, which ranks tied for fifth-most in the league in that span, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Eight of those 15 are still on the team, and this weekend the Hutson Center will be filled with young hopefuls striving to make the same initial impression they did.