GREEN BAY – Kyler Fackrell and his father, Darrell, laughed it off as a joke, but Kelley Moore couldn’t have been more serious.
Moore, the Mesa (Ariz.) High School football coach, was upfront and honest with the Fackrells about his belief that Kyler, a senior at the time, would one day play outside linebacker in the NFL.
However unlikely it might have seemed nearly seven years ago, Moore saw what many college recruiters didn’t – a long and rangy athlete whose frame screamed linebacker.
So when the Packers took Fackrell in the third round of the NFL Draft two weeks ago, you can be sure that his former coach let him hear about it.
“I had to remind him of the story,” said Moore, laughing. “I tagged it with, ‘LOL.’ It was kind of an ‘I told you so.’”
“That was fun. It was fun.”
Little has been guaranteed in a football career that’s taken Fackrell from Mesa to Logan, Utah, and now Green Bay. He’s silenced doubters, overcome a torn ACL and kept himself firmly on a path to pro football whether he knew it or not.
In high school, he was a dynamic two-way player on the field and an enforcer off of it. Fackrell kept his teammates in line and wasn’t shy about relaying ideas and in-game adjustments to Moore and the Mesa coaching staff.
Moore took most of his kids’ opinions with a grain of salt, but not Fackrell.
“Trusting a 16-, 17- 18-year-old kid with information, it’s not something we necessarily do often as coaches, but Kyler was that guy,” Moore said. “If he said in the game, ‘Coach this is happening. I could do this.’ We instantly did it.”
As a senior, Fackrell recruited close friend Dallin Parker to forgo swimming and return to football after breaking his foot his freshman year. With Parker playing quarterback, Fackrell slid back to receiver and helped lead Mesa on an improbable run to the 5A state championship game, the program’s first state appearance in 17 years.
Still, the phones remained silent other than an offer from Utah State. Aggies assistant coach Bill Busch, who previously coached with one of Mesa’s assistants at Northern Arizona, caught wind of Fackrell and quickly was intrigued by his upside.
Fackrell didn’t immediately sign, though. He had his whole life ahead of him and wasn’t sure what to do with it. So after graduating from Mesa in 2010, the future Packers linebacker put college – and his football career – temporarily on hold and grabbed a paint brush instead.
With the offer still on the table, Fackrell picked up a job painting houses around the Phoenix area and used the year off to decide between starting college or embarking upon a church mission trip.
Eventually, Fackrell chose football.
“They were surprised,” said Fackrell with a smile at last week’s rookie orientation camp. “Coach Busch … he thought I was on my mission actually. So I gave him a call and said I wanted to come up.”
Utah State already used the scholarship it previously offered to Fackrell, but another came open during the fall of his redshirt freshman year. Officially a linebacker, he used his first year to pack 30 pounds onto his 6-foot-5 frame after arriving at 205.
Once Fackrell got on the field in 2012, you couldn’t get him off it. He started all 41 games he played at Utah State, finishing with 253 tackles (36 for a loss), 12 sacks, five forced fumbles and four interceptions.
Aside from tearing his ACL in the first game of his junior year, Fackrell was unstoppable during his five years with the Aggies. A bounce-back senior season (83 tackles with 15 for loss) then helped put him on the Packers’ radar.
The selection was enough cause for celebration, but finding his new locker adjacent to nine-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher Julius Peppers was a jaw-dropping moment for the rookie.
Fackrell, who’ll turn 25 in November, has always been mature beyond his years, but grew up even more after he and his wife, Lisa, welcomed a baby girl, Delanie, two years ago.
Her birth coincided with his recovery from the ACL. She pushed him then and continues to every day.
“For everything that I do, they’re my motivation,” Fackrell said. “I’m sure in training camp when I don’t feel good, when I don’t feel like getting up, and going and working hard, it’s going to be them in the back of my mind that’s going to get me to go to work every day.”
Back in Arizona, Moore and his wife literally fell to their knees in jubilation after the Packers drafted Fackrell. Shortly thereafter, Moore fired the text to his former player reminding him of what he told him all those years ago.
So why was Moore so confident that Fackrell would make it to the NFL?
“I knew his heart … I knew his work ethic,” Moore said. “I knew he had room to get a lot bigger. Basically, his marks in the 40 (yard dash) and all that were exactly the same as high school except he’s 50 pounds heavier now. Our big deal was mass times acceleration equals force – he typified that.”