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Packers draft class set to tackle challenges

Posted May 12, 2012

General Manager Ted Thompson has often said he wants football to mean a lot to the players he drafts.

So for all the skills and achievements the 2012 draft class is bringing to Green Bay, it also likely would please Thompson to hear each of his draftees discuss what they feel they have to prove.

Right down the line, first through seventh round, the motivations are there. Call them chips on the shoulder or fires in the belly, but they’re a part of how the draftees have launched their pro careers over orientation weekend.

First-rounder Nick Perry has to prove he can make the transition from defensive end at USC to outside linebacker in the NFL, despite his reported protestations at the combine to changing spots. Second-rounder Jerel Worthy (pictured, No. 99) will try to quiet those who criticized him for taking plays off at Michigan State.

“Everybody that talks bad about you is just a motivator,” said Worthy, a disruptive defensive lineman. “The same people that say I don’t have a good motor, they’re the same people I’ll be thanking later on.”

Like Worthy, fellow second-rounder Casey Hayward from Vanderbilt is out to prove Thompson made the right call in trading up to make him the fifth cornerback to come off the board.

Two other cornerbacks, Montana’s Trumaine Johnson and Central Florida’s Josh Robinson, went within the next four picks after Hayward.

“It means a lot when somebody is willing to move up that much, to pick a guy like me,” Hayward said.

Fourth-rounder Mike Daniels (also pictured, helmet off), who’s sitting out the on-field workouts this weekend due to injury, doesn’t want to take a back seat to his three Iowa defensive linemates who were drafted a year ago.

He had to stand out on his own as a college senior, and he plans to do the same as a pro rookie.

“A year ago, we had an NFL defensive line (at Iowa), and I found it my job to play better than them,” Daniels said. “That’s what goes on in the NFL. Everybody pushes each other to play better than the guys left and right of them.”

Another fourth-rounder, Maine safety Jerron McMillian, is a small-school player who wants to show the jump to the NFL isn’t as big as some make it out to be.

McMillian wasn’t offered any Division I scholarships coming out of high school except from Maine, so he’s walked through these kinds of proving grounds before.

“You always have to try to prove that small-school guys can play just as well as everybody else,” McMillian said. “That’s always (what happens) coming from a small school that doesn’t get the recognition of the big schools, but football is football.”

Fifth-round linebacker Terrell Manning was the third player Thompson traded up for in this year’s draft, costing the GM three picks to move up more than a full round – 36 spots, his biggest climb of draft weekend.

Manning said after he was selected that he was agonizing over not being chosen sooner, feeling he’s a better player than several linebackers drafted ahead of him. The North Carolina State standout wasn’t backing off that stance this weekend.

“I’ve got a lot to prove,” he said. “Everybody has their personal opinion about my game, but I know myself and right now it’s all about what I end up doing on the field by producing.”

Last but not least, the seventh-rounders are embracing their challenges, too. Quarterback B.J. Coleman has to show that taking a step back in college competition by transferring from Tennessee to UT-Chattanooga didn’t make him any less prepared to dive into an NFL playbook.

Meanwhile, offensive tackle Andrew Datko is insistent that his bad shoulder, originally hurt in high school and then surgically repaired at Florida State, won’t keep him from fulfilling his lifelong dream.

“I knew coming into the draft my shoulder was going to affect (my status), but the coaches know and I know what I can bring to the table,” Datko said. “So I’m going to work as hard as I can to bring that to the team.”

Spoken like a player to whom football matters, but then again it’s a given Thompson already knew that, about all of them.

Additional coverage - May 12

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