GREEN BAY – DeShone Kizer was in midst of his offseason training in California when he was informed two weeks ago that he’d been traded to the Green Bay Packers.
It was an unusual feeling for Kizer, a second-round pick in last year’s NFL Draft who thrown into the fire as the 21-year-old starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.
Although it was an admittedly challenging rookie season, the 6-foot-4, 233-pound quarterback had 15 NFL starts under his belt and fully expected to be back in 2017.
Instead, Kizer’s second NFL season will begin in Green Bay and the young quarterback couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity in front of him.
“Very surprised,” said Kizer of his reaction to being traded during a conference call with Green Bay media Friday morning.
“When stuff like this happens, you really can’t be prepared for it. The only thing I really know is the situation I had in Cleveland but, obviously, very excited now. Looking back at it, I think it’s going to be an awesome opportunity to take a step back and learn from some great developers of the game and be around some great competitors and get back to winning the way I know how to.”
Kizer faces an entirely new reality with the Packers. Instead of being asked to lead a team at a young age, Kizer’s primary responsibility now is to serve as an apprentice to two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Kizer said he had “a little bit of contact” with the Packers last year in the lead-up to the NFL Draft to the point Kizer felt Green Bay could have been “a landing place” for him after he wasn’t taken on Day 1.
That possibility ended after the Packers took Washington cornerback Kevin King at No. 33 and Kizer finally landed with the Browns at No. 52. Now in Green Bay, Kizer believes the change-of-pace will make a difference for him as well as the opportunity to learn from someone of Rodgers’ ilk.
“I get to learn from somebody who’s had a lot of success and, obviously, is known as one of the better quarterbacks in this league and one of the better quarterbacks to ever play this game,” Kizer said. “So, now I get to take a step back, learn from him, re-evaluate my process as a quarterback and do whatever I can to help this team win and obviously develop myself into the best quarterback that I can be.”
Kizer’s rookie season was a grind. After a promising preseason, he completed only 53.6 percent of his passes and threw 22 interceptions.
Yet, Kizer felt the game begin to slow down for him with solid December showings against Green Bay and Pittsburgh. While the Browns finished the season 0-16, Kizer has tried to take his 887 NFL regular-season snaps and channel it into his offseason training with throwing coach, Tom House.
House, based in Orange County, Fla., has tutored a litany of NFL quarterbacks, including Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan. Kizer says he’s already made strides in his accuracy in the months since the season ended.
“After going through the season we went through last year and having some accuracy things in college, I think I found my stroke,” said Kizer of what he’s learned thus far. “I feel like I’m throwing the ball the best I’ve ever thrown it right now, and now walking into a system that has been very quarterback friendly through the history of their organization, I think I’ll be able to go out and hopefully step up my game to another level and be able to become a more accurate passer.”
A two-year starter at Notre Dame, Kizer said he has no regrets about declaring early for the draft last year because he feels only NFL action is going to prepare him to be an NFL QB.
Kizer doesn’t believe his trying rookie campaign will have any aftereffects, either. He got his first taste of that last season and hopes that trial-by-fire introduction to the NFL will benefit him in the long run.
“I know how the bullets fly now,” Kizer said. “That’s awesome for a young quarterback. I think now is an experience to take a step back and re-evaluate that process and figure out where the issues were in my game and in my process, and do whatever I get a better routine through the week so I can be more prepared and obviously do whatever I can to help the team win now.”