GREEN BAY – Kyler Fackrell’s life came into focus in the weeks and months after he tore his anterior cruciate ligament on Aug. 31, 2014.
Long before the Packers selected the Utah State linebacker in the third round of Friday night’s NFL Draft, Fackrell and his wife, Elizabeth, were busy dealing with fallout of his knee injury, while anxiously awaiting the birth of their daughter, Delaney.
As devastating as it was for Fackrell’s redshirt junior season to be over following the Aggies’ season-opener against Tennessee, Elizabeth’s situation soon became more precarious.
Her pregnancy was difficult. She often was sick leading up to the due date. They finally breathed a sigh of relief once Delaney arrived and Fackrell was able to spend his extra time away from the football field with his growing family.
It’s time he wouldn’t have been afforded without the injury.
“If I had been going through the whole process of training and preparing for the combine and everything, I really wouldn’t have been able to have very much time with her since she was first born,” said Fackrell moments after the Packers selected him with the 88th overall pick.
“In those ways, just being able to be there for my wife during her pregnancy and being able to support her, and being able to spend a lot of time with my daughter was kind of a good thing.”
It took time for Fackrell to regain confidence in his knee once he returned to the football field, but he quickly reestablished himself as a draftable player during his senior year in 2015.
He finished second on the Aggies’ 3-4 defense with 82 tackles (15 for a loss), four sacks and five fumble recoveries, which led the nation. His 12 quarterback pressures also set a new single-season record for the Aggies.
All told, Fackrell started 41 collegiate games with 253 tackles (36 for a loss), 12 sacks and five forced fumbles. He’s one of just 15 players in school history to earn all-conference honors three times during a career.
“He’s kind of an all-around guy,” General Manager Ted Thompson said. “He has the ability to rush the passer, but he’s got good ability in space; good athlete. We liked how he plays the ball.”
Fackrell, who’ll turn 25 in November, possesses a length and size combination that was intriguing to the Packers, who were looking to add another option at outside rusher behind Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and Nick Perry.
His goal once he arrives in Green Bay is to get stronger in hopes of improving against the run, but his ranginess should make him an ideal fit in Green Bay.
An outside rusher in the Aggies’ 3-4 defense, Fackrell hopes that experience will reduce his learning curve in getting acclimated with Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ zone-blitz scheme.
He’ll be the first to admit that “speed kills” when it comes to rushing the passer, but it’s essential to have more than one move coming off the edge. His height and length (33¼-inch arms) may be his greatest attribute in getting that done.
“I think that’s one of the first things people look for,” said Fackrell of his size. “The length and being able to keep offensive tackles’ hands off you. The speed around the edge is something I need to continue to work on, but I think is a big upside for me.”
It’s been a long journey from Mesa (Ariz.) High School to the NFL for Fackrell. A three-sport athlete, he lettered in basketball and volleyball in addition to playing linebacker, quarterback and receiver in high school.
On a personal level, Friday night’s phone call from the Packers was the culmination of everything for Fackrell, Elizabeth and the now 2-year-old Delaney, who made herself briefly heard during his conference call with Green Bay media.
Despite the setback with his knee a little more than a year ago, Fackrell never lost sight of his goal. In many ways, the 24-year-old linebacker is thankful for it.
“I knew it was possible. It was still my goal,” said Fackrell about his NFL chances after the knee injury. “The injury wasn’t what I had planned, what we had planned, but in a lot of ways it helped me. It was a blessing in disguise for our family. We’re just grateful to be here right now and again be a part of the Packers organization.”