Skip to main content

First days at Lambeau Field create special moments for Packers' rookies

Plenty to absorb during minicamp as their NFL careers begin

K Anders Carlson
K Anders Carlson

GREEN BAY – The Packers' rookies are out to make an impression in minicamp, but their first days at Lambeau Field make an impression on them, too.

"I think the one word is history, right?" kicker Anders Carlson, a sixth-round draft pick from Auburn, said Friday of seeing the team facility for the first time.

"You kind of walk around – I haven't really found my way around too much – but being in the locker room, being around here, the banners in the hallway right there, just the amount of history and the great players that have been through here, it's pretty cool."

Carlson's Auburn teammate, fourth-round defensive lineman Colby Wooden, took note of the atmosphere as well.

"It's a fun experience, a great experience, just walking around the facility, you see a lot of tradition, a lot of winning, which definitely puts you in the mindset that we gotta win to get our own stuff around here," Wooden said. "Seeing what's come before us and knowing the tradition and knowing the standard, it makes you want to work hard and go win a championship."

Tight end Luke Musgrave, a second-round pick from Oregon State, said driving past Titletown was "breathtaking" and seeing the stadium was "amazing."

Meanwhile, quarterback Sean Clifford, a fifth-rounder from Penn State, found himself sitting in Aaron Rodgers' old locker, the one he'd seen with Rodgers' nameplate when he visited Green Bay during the pre-draft process.

But the awe-inspiring moments aside, this rookie minicamp is about getting down to business and getting an introduction to life as an NFL player. There's a lot to absorb, starting with the playbook, which tight end Tucker Kraft, a third-round pick from South Dakota State, described as "extensive" with a lot of "complexity."

"But it's not gotten that crazy yet," he said, in terms of what the coaches are feeding the rookies this weekend. The primary goal is "getting lined up correctly and running the right play, blocking the right guy."

First-round pick Lukas Van Ness, an edge rusher from Iowa, is adopting a similar mindset these first few days. There's no need for anyone to get ahead of themselves.

"I just want to come in and learn as much as possible about the system and what it means to be a professional," he said.

Check out photos of the Green Bay Packers' 2023 rookie class arriving at Lambeau Field on May 4, 2023, for the start of rookie minicamp.

Part of that is simply rolling with whatever comes next. Fifth-round receiver Dontayvion Wicks from Virginia, like Clifford, had taken a pre-draft visit to Green Bay, but coming back as a draft pick is a different feeling.

"It's been fun, man. Just getting to a new team, there's always some nerves," Wicks said. "It's always nerve-racking … just not knowing what's next."

Friday afternoon's first practice was just in shorts and helmets – the pads won't go on until a few days into training camp in late July – but putting on that Packers helmet for the first time is another one of those moments in the transition players cherish.

They were certainly looking forward to it when they spoke with the media.

"It's going to be wonderful," Wooden said. "I haven't put a helmet on since December, so it's going to be fun. I'm truly blessed. That 'G,' I'm from Georgia, so that 'G' down there means something totally different. But no, to put on that NFL helmet is going to be exciting and a lot of nerves."

Added Musgrave: "Pretty cool. Obviously you can't see yourself in the helmet, but pretty cool."

The excitement can be hard to contain, but in the same breath the players know they're here for a reason.

Seventh-round cornerback Carrington Valentine from Kentucky feels his football career has come full circle, as his pee-wee team growing up wore green-and-gold uniforms.

"I don't even know how to describe it," he said. "I'm very excited to be here … just walking around and seeing your name on the lockers. Seeing some of the guys you looked up to in college and stuff like that, it feels surreal. I'm here now. I'm happy and I'm just ready to go out there and find my fit on the team."

That's the objective. So much of these players' lives through last week had been dedicated to getting drafted, earning a chance to play in the NFL. Now the work really begins.

"It's a blessing. It's something I've been working for since I first started playing football," said seventh-round running back Lew Nichols from Central Michigan. "But I'm here now, so it's time to get to work and prove everybody in the Packers organization right for taking me."

Related Content