GREEN BAY – It was the greatest individual game of his football career, yet to defensive lineman Dean Lowry, it wasn’t about the individual.
“That was a turning point in our season,” Lowry said of Northwestern’s dramatic 30-28 victory at Nebraska in 2015 during which he set a school record with six – count ’em, six – tackles for loss, including two sacks.
“We could either go down or go up. That game, a lot of seniors stepped up.”
Count the Packers’ fourth-round draft pick in the team guy category, for sure. But no senior stepped up quite like Lowry did that late October day.
It began on the Cornhuskers’ first play from scrimmage, when he brought down QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. for a 1-yard loss on a running play. Lowry came out of the locker room after halftime similarly stoked, getting Armstrong and running back Terrell Newby behind the line on two plays of Nebraska’s opening third-quarter possession.
He saved his best snaps for late in the game, too. With Northwestern clinging to a one-point lead, Lowry sacked Armstrong on third-and-9 from the Northwestern 23, making Nebraska settle for a field goal to begin the fourth quarter.
Then, after the Wildcats had regained the lead at 27-22, he sacked Armstrong again on third-and-10, forcing a punt.
“I think it was clicking with the pass rush that game,” Lowry said, finally giving in to talk about himself as the conversation progressed. “I’m usually very good against the run, but that game particularly, I was using spin moves and swim moves to get around guys, and I have to find ways to use those moves all the time in the NFL now.
“Nebraska’s O-line was very good, so if I can beat them with those moves, in my opinion I think I can beat NFL linemen.”
The Packers are counting on it. They drafted Lowry to play the five-technique spot – on the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle – in the base 3-4 defense, and to move inside as in sub packages.
Lowry will be making a transition from Northwestern’s 4-3 to Dom Capers’ 3-4, but he believes the positions he’ll play won’t be much different from college. The change will be in where others are lining up around him, and understanding their assignments as well.
“I think I can do a lot of different things,” Lowry said. “I just want to pick up on the whole defense.”
On draft day, Lowry was described as a blue-collar, extra-effort guy in the trenches, but that shortchanges his athletic ability somewhat. While his combine testing numbers (4.87 40-yard dash, 30 bench press reps, 32 ½-inch vertical) didn’t jump off the page, they were more than solid for a 296-pounder.
He also was knocked for having short arms on his 6-6 frame, but the underrated athleticism is how Lowry believes he overcame that.
“I’m anxious to show people I can move,” Lowry said. “I’m not just somebody who’s big that has a high motor. I think I’m athletic as well. In college, I dropped a lot in our defense, so I think in that way I can maybe get out in the flat and cover some people.”
That won’t be necessary if he gets into the backfield like he did out in Lincoln, Neb., last fall.
To be fair, Lowry wasn’t kidding about how big a game that was for his Wildcats. After a 5-0 start, they had lost back-to-back games to Michigan and Iowa by a combined 78-10 score, and the season was teetering. The down-to-the-wire road victory over Nebraska sparked a five-game winning streak that sent Northwestern to a New Year’s Day bowl game.
It didn’t hurt Lowry’s cause, either.
“It was pretty big, yeah,” he said. “It definitely put me on the map.”