GREEN BAY – It's not that Rashan Gary wasn't mindful of his diet before entering the NFL. The Packers' rookie first-round pick has always aimed to keep his body fat right around 13 or 14 percent.
After surveying the league, however, Gary realized how high the bar has been set for NFL pass rushers. Looking to meet those expectations, the 6-foot-5, 277-pound outside linebacker took his training to the next level back in Texas following the conclusion of the Packers' offseason program in June.
His five-week program, documented in a one-minute video on his Twitter account, saw Gary doing circuit-training, footwork drills and a variety of pass-rush exercises in the sand to help further develop his leg strength and quick twitch.
The end result? Gary says he reported to training camp at 10-percent body fat.
"I felt that looking at guys like Aaron Donald in the league, you look at their body, you see how they perform and you see what type of training they can do – I wanted to take my body to the next level," Gary said. "So for me, getting down to 10 percent, that was a big thing for me and I can definitely tell the difference."
It's not the first time Gary has made a significant change to his diet. Two years ago, he cut out ice cream to lower his body fat from 20 to 14 percent before his sophomore year at Michigan, dropping about 10 pounds in the process. His current meal plan consists of a steady rotation of chicken, salmon and broccoli.
Gary's goal is to play at the speed he showcased with his 4.58-second time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, while also maintaining the strength and power to be an across-the-line rusher in Mike Pettine's defense.
With a locker located between Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith, Gary has had two solid veterans to work off of in that regard. The rookie credited both for going out of their way to assist him on everything from his technique to how to properly tackle post-workout recovery.
"You don't see guys that height with that size that have that great athleticism that he's got," Preston Smith said. "He has a lot of assets. He's long, he's strong, he's fast, too. And he has some nice bend to him. He can flip his hips. He's very flexible in rushing and playing the run."
Gary looked the part of a 12th overall pick during his first spring in Green Bay. While the pads will go on for the first time this weekend, Gary showed an explosive first step rushing from a two-point stance throughout OTAs and minicamp.
The Packers feel both Gary and Za'Darius Smith could also line up inside as three-technique rushers in certain third-down passing situations, a tactic Green Bay's defense previously utilized with Julius Peppers and Mike Neal back in 2014.
With Preston Smith's arrival and the return of 2018 sack leader Kyler Fackrell, General Manager Brian Gutekunst believes the Packers now have enough resources at outside linebacker to revert back to some of those concepts.
"I've always had the mindset – this goes back two or three years – that we needed to get bigger, longer, more explosive," said Gutekunst earlier this week. "There was a time when we were lining up with Julius Peppers and Mike Neal as our edges. We got away from that a little bit, and I think we needed to get back there. I think we've taken some steps to do that."
Anxious for the pads to go on, Gary joked he was happy to get back on a grass field this week after his summer spent in the sand. It will all be worth it, though, if he can contribute for Green Bay's defense right off the bat.
Whether he's rushing inside or outside, Gary is pushing to give the Packers an immediate return on their investment. When asked Friday if he sees himself as more Donald or J.J. Watt, Gary replied simply: "I'm trying to be more Rashan Gary. I'm willing myself to be the best player I can be.
"I'm an athlete. I don't know how else to put it. I feel like whatever the coach wants me to do, I could do it. But (right now), I'm an outside linebacker."
Check out photos from the second day of training camp at Nitschke Field.