When the Green Bay Packers made Nick Perry their first-round draft choice, he instantly became their starter at the outside linebacker position opposite Clay Matthews despite defensive end being his position flashed to millions of television viewers at home.
Perry played end in a three-point stance at Southern California, so he faces a big transition ahead of him as he learns to play standing up in a two-point stance, playing in space and dropping into coverage.
That might seem like a risk to some, the Packers putting all their eggs in one basket hoping that a defensive end can magically transform into the next coming of DeMarcus Ware.
But for as long as the Packers have been running a 3-4 defense, they've done it before, and they'll do it again.
"Most of the guys that you take, you're going to ask them to do some things technique-wise that they haven't done a lot of," explained defensive coordinator Dom Capers on Thursday night. "There's always a little bit of a transition from that standpoint. We'll be excited to get Nick in here and get started working with him here in a couple weeks."
With relatively few college teams running 3-4 defenses, the Packers are far from the only team making a projections at the outside linebacker position. It's necessary to take college players, bring them under your wing, teach them, mold them, instruct them as to the nuances of the professional game.
From middle school to high school to college, the game of football and sports and general are interwoven into the educational system in America. And even when players reach the NFL and football is no longer part of an institution of academia, that doesn't mean the teaching stops.
It's now the job of Capers and outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene and even head coach Mike McCarthy to assist in the education of Nick Perry as an outside linebacker.
"We're looking forward to getting him with Kevin and Dom and seeing what we do," said general manager Ted Thompson. "He'll jump in with our guys and compete with our guys and see how he stacks up."
That's the only attitude you can take. As a general manager or a coach, you can only look forward and be excited to working with a young man such as Perry and embrace the journey you're about to take in aiding his education.
There's going to be some lumps along the way, no doubt about it. It's going to take some time to turn Perry into a well-rounded player that's proficient in all phases of the game whether it's rushing the passer or stuffing the run or dropping back in coverage.
Perry said back at the NFL Combine that he was most comfortable with his hand in the dirt. And while some may view that as a red flag, he was most likely being honest.
Playing in a three-point stance is––in all likelihood––pretty much all Perry has done since high school, so of course he's most comfortable playing that way. That doesn't mean he's unwilling to change.
There's something about a couple million dollars that will probably help him sway his opinion.
"It's here," said Perry Thursday evening. "I can't control it. This is something I love doing, I love playing football. I'm here to do whatever it takes to compete. Whatever I can do to help the team, I'm here for that."
One of the knocks on Perry is that his motor runs hot and cold. In addition to his newfound wealth to inspire him, he'll have Greene––the ultimate motivator––in his ear letting him know whenever he's dogging it.
And Perry will only have to look at his former USC teammate manning the other bookend outside linebacker position to see an example of where a non-stop drive and hustle can get you in the NFL.
And that's not to mention the pressure Perry will feel from a frenetic fan base to produce. It's already ingrained in him, and he hasn't even been to Lambeau Field yet.
Reporters played a word association game with Perry last evening, asking him the first thing he thinks of when he hears "Green Bay."
"Super Bowls," was Perry's response.
Perry brings to the table an almost freakish combination of strength and speed, a 4.64 40-yard dash to go along with 35 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press at the Combine. His 38.5-inch vertical jump 124-inch broad jump aren't bad either, especially when considering he weighs 271 pounds.
His agility drills leave much to be desired, however, with times of 7.25 seconds in the three-cone drill and 4.66 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle.
But Perry also brings two intangibles that appear to be in very high regard to the Packers: no character concerns and little to no injury history.
Perry will be counted upon as a complement to Matthews, and a familiar face from USC is going to only help him in his transition. Last night Perry said Matthews congratulated him on his selection and considered themselves friends.
Now that he's in the fold, the newest member of the Green Bay Packers can focus on becoming the best 3-4 outside linebacker he can be.
"I think I have the raw set skills, and I have the mind to do it," said Perry. "I think I have a lot to bring to the table. There's a lot of potential that needs to be taken out of me. I'm going to Green Bay for a great tradition that's going to help me improve my game and make me become a better player for years to come."
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