GREEN BAY – Vince Biegel couldn’t have asked for a better spot, with his new Packers locker stationed between those of fellow outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry.
He’s not looking at his location as just happenstance, either.
“I think it’s also a statement,” Biegel said on Friday. “I think there’s some high expectations here.”
Biegel is well-aware of the spotlight on him, not only as a Wisconsin native getting to live out every kid’s dream by playing for Green Bay, but also as the only edge-rusher the Packers added in last weekend’s draft to a defense that lost a future Hall of Famer at that position in Julius Peppers.
He’s more than ready for all the attention that will come his way.
Unfortunately, Biegel’s first day on the practice field didn’t go as planned, as he bowed out of Friday’s first rookie orientation workout inside the Don Hutson Center early due to an injury to his left hand.
He expressed no concern about it, but it was admittedly a bummer for the fourth-round pick and former Wisconsin Badger.
“Disappointed obviously that I didn’t get to finish my first practice as a Green Bay Packer,” he said. “Obviously I was really looking forward to this moment, but this is going to be a bumpy road. There’s ups and downs in this journey.”
Biegel wasn’t the only draft pick forced to step aside. Safety Josh Jones and receiver DeAngelo Yancey both had trouble with muscle cramps during the workout as well.
Still, nothing will take away the thrill for Biegel to drive himself from his hometown of Wisconsin Rapids, just a couple hours away, to Lambeau Field for his first day of work as a professional on Thursday.
Countless thousands of young football players with Wisconsin roots would give anything to eventually be in his shoes someday, and that’s not lost on him, either.
“Growing up in central Wisconsin, I’m in the heart of it, if you will,” he said. “I definitely have a strong appreciation for the platform that I’m on. I’m just trying to take advantage of it.”
He said it was “a surreal moment” to walk into the Packers locker room for the first time, and that was before he saw where his locker was located.
Soon he met his position mate and new neighbor, six-time Pro Bowler Clay Matthews, and shook his hand.
“It was really cool,” Biegel said. “A guy who I’ve looked up to. I’ve taken parts of his game and tried to include it in mine.”
Then he saw his jersey, No. 45, a switch from his college No. 47 back to his number from high school, which matched the number his dad, Rocky, wore as a college player at BYU.
There’s plenty to smile about, but Biegel isn’t letting the moment overwhelm or distract him. Head Coach Mike McCarthy pointed out Biegel sat in the front row at the first team meeting with all the other draft picks, rookie free agents and tryout players on hand this weekend.
“Being a hometown kid, there’s a special appreciation for Green Bay, but it’s going to be all business from here,” Biegel said.
Matthews and Perry will be right there to keep him on track, if needed, but the mature, professional demeanor Biegel already exudes should serve him well and lead the way for now.
“It’s the next step in the journey,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of people I can learn from. It’s an exciting time. I’m looking forward to, not just my rookie season, but for years to come here in Green Bay.”
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