GREEN BAY – It’s Senior Bowl week all over again for the Packers’ top two draft picks.
Cornerbacks Damarious Randall (23) and Quinten Rollins (24) were roommates for the annual college all-star game in Mobile, Ala., back in January, and now they’re rooming together again at a local Green Bay hotel for rookie orientation.
“Crazy odds, huh?” Randall said after Friday’s opening practice inside the Don Hutson Center, when the two donned their Packers helmets for the first time.
Arizona State’s Randall was the one who predicted the reunion. It was his running joke during Senior Bowl week that he and Rollins would go from roommates to NFL teammates, and lo and behold, last week the Packers drafted them on back-to-back nights, in the first and second rounds.
When the joke became reality last Friday, Randall immediately sent Rollins a text message “with a lot of laughing faces,” Randall said. “I actually use emojis a lot.”
Rollins was the one cracking the biggest smile during Friday’s rookie practice, as he stepped in front of third-round pick Ty Montgomery to intercept a pass thrown by fifth-rounder Brett Hundley.
A four-year basketball player at Miami of Ohio who played just one year of college football, Rollins proved he was a quick study last year in earning Mid-American Conference defensive player of the year honors.
He continues to learn at a rapid pace, if the anticipation he showed on Friday from the slot is any indication.
“I was just reading,” Rollins said. “I know my position, I have my reads, number two went outside. I saw that, and I just buzzed back to number one and the ball was coming. So I made a play on it and was in the right spot at the right time.”
Randall will have to wait for his first big play. He sat out Friday’s workout with what he called a “minor ankle injury,” but that didn’t stop him from raving about the guy he considers his “best bud right now.”
“His ball skills are off the charts,” Randall said of Rollins. “Very great athlete.”
As the spring and summer heat up, so could the competition between the two. With the starting cornerback job opposite Sam Shields not set in stone, and with help potentially needed in the nickel and dime packages, Randall and Rollins could get in each other’s way for playing time.
They insist that won’t be awkward. Being friends as well as competitors comes with the territory.
“Both of us are going to make each other better, and that’s going to make the team better also,” Randall said. “I’m just trying to come in and earn my way to play.”
The focus for both is to bury themselves in their playbooks back at the hotel, and during any free time they have between now and when OTAs with the veterans begin after Memorial weekend.
They studied diligently together in their Mobile hotel four months ago, so that part hasn't changed. They’ll be working together much longer than a week this time, though.
“It’s kind of surreal, but at the same time, I’m glad I’ve built a relationship with that guy,” Rollins said.
“It makes you more comfortable as a rookie coming in, knowing you’ve got another rookie you know. You come in here less nervous and more anxious, and that’s been good.”
More from rookie orientation - May 8