GREEN BAY – Vince Biegel hosted a draft party on Friday back home in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., but it ended without his name being called.
He didn’t have to wait long on Saturday for his fortunes to change in a way he could only dream of as a home-state kid.
The Packers drafted Biegel, an outside linebacker from the University of Wisconsin, with the first pick in the fourth round, No. 108 overall.
“I wake up early this morning, and the Packers have three minutes left on the clock, so I’m like, shoot, the Packers aren’t picking me,” Biegel said in a conference call moments after being taken with the first pick of Day 3 of the draft.
“All of a sudden my phone blows up and it’s the Packers on the line. I couldn’t believe it. You couldn’t write a story like that. It’s crazy.”
Like nearly all Wisconsin kids, Biegel grew up a fan of the Badgers and Packers, and now he’s just days away from putting on the uniform of the latter after a productive four years with the former.
“I dreamed about being a Wisconsin Badger first, and I dreamed of one day playing in the NFL,” he said. “If you look at old pictures of me growing up, it was always wearing green and gold. I had a cheesehead. I was the most Wisconsin thing you could be.
“This is every Wisconsin kid’s dream, and I feel incredibly blessed.”
The Packers felt fortunate to get him, as Green Bay continued its focus on defense with a fourth consecutive pick on that side of the ball.
Biegel (6-3, 246) is the first edge-rusher the Packers have added in this draft, which began with far more attention on his Wisconsin teammate and bookend rusher, T.J. Watt.
Green Bay could have drafted Watt in the first round at No. 29 overall but traded back four spots. Watt was then drafted by Pittsburgh at No. 30.
The extra pick the Packers acquired in the trade with the Browns was the one they used here, so instead of getting Watt, the Packers got Washington cornerback Kevin King at No. 33 Friday night and Biegel early on Saturday to help the defense.
“He’s a tenacious player,” Packers senior personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith said. “You can tell his passion for the game. He checks all the boxes – his makeup, his personality, how he goes about being a professional.
“Everyone knows who he is and what he represents.”
Highsmith attended Wisconsin’s pro day, and he was impressed with Biegel’s businesslike approach to his workout. That only added to the profile on tape of a pass-rusher with 19½ sacks over the past three years.
Statistically, Biegel’s best years were in 2014-15, with 15 ½ sacks among 30 ½ tackles for loss. His numbers dropped in 2016 in part due to a foot injury, but that didn’t diminish the Packers’ interest in him.
“You could tell he was a leader the moment he walked out there at the pro day,” Highsmith said. “He conducts himself like a real guy.”
That stood out to Highsmith, who has engineered group workouts at the NFL Scouting Combine over his nearly two-decade career in the scouting business. A player’s professional approach, witnessed up close, matters.
“When you see a guy whose intensity level is up here, who plays hard, who does all these things, and then you measure him, you start to think, you know what, we might have something here,” Highsmith said.
For all the attention Watt received, Biegel wasn’t overshadowed in Highsmith’s mind.
“I think he had his own identity,” Highsmith said. “I thought he made a name for himself. He’s been a very durable player. He played a lot of football at Wisconsin.”
A school-record-tying 54 games, to be exact, including 40 starts. Biegel earned second- or third-team All-Big Ten recognition each of the last three years as well as multiple Academic All-Big Ten honors.
“He’s going to be ready Day 1,” Highsmith said. “He’s going to come in and compete and find a role for himself.”
The Biegel family is well-known throughout Wisconsin in the sport of football. Biegel’s grandfather Ken is a Wisconsin high school hall of fame coach, while father Rocky played in college at BYU, for starters.
Biegel has memories of attending games at Lambeau Field as a kid, touring the stadium and going to training camp as well, getting A.J. Hawk to sign a jersey. Biegel was a huge Brett Favre fan growing up, and the family is friends with former Packers QB Ty Detmer. Last year, Biegel even played a game at Lambeau Field for Wisconsin, against LSU.
The in-state ties run deep, so as things came full circle on Saturday, Biegel couldn’t help revealing that the call on from the Packers brought his dad to tears.
“That’s my dad. It means a lot to my dad,” Biegel said. “We feel very honored to represent Wisconsin in any way we can.”
An admitted admirer of Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews, Biegel is eager to work with, and learn from, the Packers’ biggest defensive star. Biegel joins an edge-rushing group that also includes Nick Perry, Jayrone Elliott, and Kyler Fackrell, a third-round draft pick last year.
“A strength of my game is my motor,” Biegel said. “One thing (the Packers) said to me on the phone, that same type of motor, the enthusiasm on film, we want you to bring that to Green Bay.
“I’m going to bring that, and then some.”
2017 DRAFT TRACKER