GREEN BAY – Damarious Randall’s pain became the Green Bay Packers’ gain.
Four years ago, Randall injured a shoulder playing junior college baseball. That prompted him to turn away from the “family” sport and toward football, transferring to another junior college and then eventually to Arizona State.
Two seasons with the Sun Devils in the Pac-12 turned Randall into a pro prospect, and on Thursday night he became the Packers’ 2015 first-round draft pick.
“I couldn’t even tell you,” Randall said, when asked where he’d be if he’d never hurt his shoulder. “I really don’t even know.”
What the Packers know is they’d like to see if the Arizona State safety can play cornerback in the NFL, a prime position of need following the free-agent departures of Tramon Williams and Davon House.
Packers GM Ted Thompson said Randall would have been the Sun Devils’ best corner, but the team’s defensive scheme required a top playmaker at safety, so that’s where Randall played.
The 5-11, 196-pound defender returned an interception for a touchdown in each of his two seasons at Arizona State, and he had three interceptions last year in earning first-team All-Pac 12 honors.
“I have a background in both of them,” Randall said of the two secondary positions. “I just feel like I can play whatever they ask me to play, whatever the coaching staff feels is better for me to help the team.”
Randall said there was a mixture of feedback from NFL teams at the scouting combine regarding whether they saw him as a corner or safety, so the Packers certainly weren’t alone in projecting him as a corner.
He doesn’t really have a favorite position. He just wants a chance to play.
“Corner is fun to be out there on the island,” Randall said. “Safety, being in the back end, is also fun. Just being out on the field is my mindset.”
Thompson also likes his baseball skills as a centerfielder, which he believes translate well to playing defensive back. Randall has two older brothers who have played professional baseball, which created the sports environment he grew up in, but he calls football his “first love.”
Randall has some experience in the return game as well, though he didn’t run back punts or kicks much at Arizona State.
He becomes the second consecutive defensive back drafted in the first round by the Packers, following Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix last year. He’s also the second Arizona State player drafted by Green Bay in the last two years, joining linebacker Carl Bradford, a fourth-round pick in 2014.
“Just playing centerfield, judging the ball, I think my ball skills are one of the better traits that I have,” Randall said.
The Packers like his versatility as much as anything, and that elevated him above the top inside linebackers in this draft, who were all available when Green Bay was on the clock with the 30th pick. A couple of defensive linemen projected as first-round talents were there, too.
“There wasn’t much conversation when it got to be our pick,” Thompson said, emphasizing how much the Packers like Randall.
“We’re glad to be where we are, and we’re looking forward to doing some good tomorrow as well.”
Editorial: Randall addresses need at corner