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Ample amounts of maturity, perspective lie within character of Jacob Monk

Packers’ fifth-round O-lineman handled full spectrum of emotions on loaded draft day

OL Jacob Monk
OL Jacob Monk

GREEN BAY – Jacob Monk's draft day was a whole lot more emotional than he initially let on.

It turns out when the Duke offensive lineman got that call of a lifetime from the Packers, who traded up a few spots to draft him in the fifth round, he was just returning to his house – from a funeral.

Monk's great uncle on his father's side, the 64-year-old James "Chubby" Sharpless, had passed away the previous Friday, with the funeral slated for Day 3 of the draft. Monk said his death wasn't unexpected, following significant health issues, but he considered his great aunt and uncle "pretty much like a second set of parents."

So it made for an understandably difficult start to his Saturday afternoon, especially with the next step in his football career on the horizon. That already had prompted memories of another elderly influence no longer with him, his late uncle Quincy, who played three seasons in the NFL and died too young at age 36 during Monk's teenage years.

"All the emotions came at once," Monk said of the sudden change from saying goodbye to a loved one and then hello to his new NFL team.

Reflecting further on his one-of-a-kind day during the Packers' rookie minicamp last week, Monk likened it to one of the memorable quotes from college basketball coaching legend Jim Valvano's famous "Don't give up" speech at the 1993 ESPYs, shortly before the cancer-stricken Valvano's death.

Here were Valvano's words: "To me there are three things everyone should do every day. No. 1 is laugh. No. 2 is think – spend some time in thought. No. 3, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that's a heck of a day."

Monk, who was born eight years after that speech but grew up in Clayton, N.C., just a half hour from Raleigh where Valvano coached at North Carolina State, summed it up this way:

"I look at it like Jimmy V.'s quote," Monk said. "I'm going to butcher it. It's really just having all the emotions in one day, that's when you know you've had a complete day. You feel sad, then you feel happy, you feel angry at some points, but then that feeling … that's how you know it's a complete day."

If such a response makes Monk sound mature beyond his 23 years, that's because he most certainly is.

He grew up with an older brother, Miles, who has Down syndrome, which laid a foundation of character and compassion within what is now a 6-foot-3, 308-pound frame.

He then became an immediate starter as a true freshman at Duke in 2019 and held a starting job for five seasons and 58 total games at three different positions. He was also a two-time team captain for the Blue Devils who describes leadership as a responsibility of servitude to others.

"I feel like that's how I was as a leader, I served my teammates," he said, explaining how that portion of his makeup can carry over to the NFL as a new guy learning the ropes. "I feel like that's what I have to do now. I have to do what's asked of me – rookie duties, you know? It's the same thing, just at a different level, in my opinion."

Monk is also quick to credit those who help him, even if his leadership and passion might contribute to their willingness.

He tossed a heartfelt thanks to Duke quarterback Riley Leonard for going above and beyond for him when he needed it. Prior to the start of the 2022 season, Monk learned he'd be starting at center, but he didn't consider himself a very good snapper.

So during summer camp, which had the players up at 6 a.m. with a 10:30 p.m. bed time, he'd beg Leonard to work with him in the team hotel after hours.

"After bed check, I'd sneak over and knock on his door until he got up and we'd just start snapping," Monk said. "I know those nights he wanted to go to sleep, he wanted to watch film or something, but I was like, 'Can you please do this with me?'"

The extra effort paid off, as Monk started a dozen games at center during his last two college seasons, to go with 34 starts at right guard and 12 at right tackle over the whole of his career. The Packers see him as an interior lineman at the pro level, able to play guard or center.

Barring a major surge from the late-round rookie or an injury to a veteran, Monk will likely be a key depth piece on the offensive line in 2024 who could emerge with a much more prominent role down the line.

Monk took snaps at both center and guard during the Packers' rookie minicamp, and offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich noted his "explosiveness off the ball."

A great first step always helps when embarking on that next adventure, while over the long haul so does the maturity and character Monk relied upon to handle his emotionally loaded draft day.

He admitted to sitting in the back at his great uncle's funeral so he could slip out in case "the call" came during the service. Instead it came just after he walked back into the house upon his return, which thrust Valvano's daily three on him in rather rapid succession and allowed him to process what Chubby, and Quincy, meant to him and his football career.

"Besides my immediate family, those are the people that poured into me the most," he said. "So I feel like it's my duty to make them happy, make them proud. I know they're looking down on me right now and hopefully they are happy. My goal is just to keep making them proud."