GREEN BAY — The texts came flooding into Jayrone Elliott’s phone soon after word surfaced last week that the fourth-year linebacker was re-signing with the Packers.
Cornerback Demetri Goodson was one of the first to chime in, punctuating his excitement with an endless barrage of exclamation points that filled Elliott’s screen.
“Meech was probably a little bit too excited,” Elliott laughed.
His fellow outside linebackers – Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Kyler Fackrell and Reggie Gilbert – also congratulated their re-upped teammate throughout the course of the night.
However, it was two days later that maybe the most meaningful text message found its way to Elliott’s phone. It was Julius Peppers, imparting a little advice to his teammate for the past three seasons.
“Take advantage of the moment,” Peppers’ text read. “This is what you’ve been waiting for.”
Fresh off a workout, it was an emotional moment for Elliott. The fourth-year linebacker used to draw comparisons to Peppers when playing football with his friends back in Ohio. He idolized the 15-year NFL veteran.
Initially nervous about approaching the nine-time Pro Bowler as undrafted rookie in 2014, Elliott grew to admire and respect Peppers’ workmanlike approach to the game of football.
Elliott also knew he probably wouldn’t play with the nine-time Pro Bowler again after Peppers re-signed with the Carolina Panthers on the second day of free agency, reuniting the 37-year-old pass-rusher with the team that drafted him second overall in 2002.
“When I saw his text, I was like, ‘Wow.’ That made my day,” Elliott said. “That gave me confidence having a guy like that – a future Hall of Famer – telling me to take advantage of the moment. It added a little extra motivation."
Familiarity and opportunity are what drove Elliott back to Green Bay. The Packers were one of only two teams that brought him in for a pre-draft visit and bet on his ability as an undrafted free agent out of Toledo.
The 6-foot-3, 255-pound linebacker has developed into one of the Packers’ core special-team players over the past three seasons with intriguing upside on defense.
The other factor Elliott carefully considered was the bond he forged with many of his teammates, friendships that “played a way bigger role” than he anticipated heading into the free-agent process.
Elliott didn’t know what to expect hitting the open market for the first time. He took a few visits to check the scenery elsewhere before deciding Green Bay was the right fit for him and his family.
“I put it all on the table. I weighed all my options,” said Elliott, who has 57 tackles, four sacks, one interception and one forced fumble in 38 career regular-season games.
“Honestly, I wasn’t really ready to go and meet new guys. It was almost like we have unfinished business here in Green Bay. Just being here for three years and coming close twice, and reaching the NFC Championship. This is a special group of guys.”
Elliott, the Packers’ 2016 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee, has relished his role in the locker room and the important part he plays on Green Bay’s special-team units.
Learning from the likes of Davon House, Jarrett Bush and Micah Hyde, Elliott has worked to be more vocal in the room and match the intensity of energetic coordinator Ron Zook.
Defensively, the 25-year-old pass-rusher feels he’s only scratching the surface. He hoped to make a significant jump this past season, but quad and hand injuries forced him to miss seven of the Packers’ 19 games (including playoffs).
“I feel like I can take a huge step this year,” Elliott said. “It’s on me to take the coaching and take care of my body, trying to stay healthy. I feel like I’m productive when I’m out there.
“It’s on me to make sure I can take advantage of the reps when I get out there and make sure I can be on the field more, being available on game day. That just comes with taking care of my body and just being who I know I can be.”
Elliott spent a good deal of his offseason training in Green Bay, following the lead of Jordy Nelson, Mike Daniels and other established veterans who continue to train in the area.
A father of two boys, Elliott returned to Ohio this week to spend some time with family and friends back home before the Packers reconvene for the offseason program next month.
When Elliott returns, he’s excited to continue his work with position coach Winston Moss, Matthews, Perry, and a quirky linebackers room he feels should have its “own reality show.”
Officially back in the fold in 2017, Elliott hopes to make good on his potential and become the next young playmaker to emerge for the Packers' defense.
“The opportunity is there,” Elliott said. “It’s up to me and the other guys to live up to the hype. It’s been there in the past. Me personally, I’ll say I didn’t take advantage of it the way I should have. All I can do is use that as motivation and continue to attack the film room, and continue to attack the practice field.”