Barnett Pleasantly Surprised By Pick

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Less than an hour after the Green Bay Packers selected him with the 29th overall pick of the 2003 NFL Draft, Oregon State's Nick Barnett didn't hesitate when asked if he went into the weekend knowing that he would be a first-round pick.

"Of course not," he said, speaking to Wisconsin media on a conference call from Barstow, Calif. "I hoped I would be. I had aspirations to be, (but) I had no clue where I was going in the draft.

"To tell you the truth I thought there was a possibility I might not be picked up today."

From those humble beginnings, Barnett not only became the first linebacker to be drafted in the first round by the Packers since Wayne Simmons in 1993, he also became the first linebacker selected in the 2003 draft.

He went ahead of names like Boss Bailey of Georgia and E.J. Henderson of Maryland.

After a senior season in which he led the Pac-10 Conference with 121 tackles, Barnett said he knew his draft stock had been rising since the NFL scouting combine, where he led all linebackers in the bench press and short shuttle run.

However, Barnett also admitted: "I never thought my stock was this high."

Not that he isn't happy with the result.

"I'm just truly blessed," Barnett said. "I pray every day, and He answered."

The Packers are hoping that Barnett will be the answer to their prayers at middle linebacker, where in recent years Bernado Harris and Hardy Nickerson have failed to meet expectations.

Although not necessarily expected to start right away, the Packers coaching staff isn't ruling out the possibility. In some shape or form, the Packers do expect Barnett to make an immediate impact on the defense.

And in that area Barnett has loftier expectations.

"I'm going to come in and try and make an impact," Barnett said. "Of course, like any football player you know, I want to start.

"There are some good guys in front of me now and I'm just happy to be able to compete for that job."

It shouldn't be surprising that Barnett couldn't envision himself as the top linebacker in the draft.

When he entered college he was a defensive back, which is one of the reasons the Packers are fond of his skills in pass-coverage.

Perhaps ironically, Barnett's determination to succeed at a new position was one of the reasons the Packers had him atop their draft board.

"I'm not so sure that he was born to this position so much as he has developed and worked and improved himself to where he is right now," GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said. "He's made himself into a first-round draft pick."

And for that, both parties are grateful.

Nick Barnett is tentatively scheduled to meet with the Wisconsin media in Green Bay at 9:30 a.m. Sunday. The press conference will be broadcast live on Packers.com.

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