GREEN BAY – In what seems like a blink of an eye, David Bakhtiari has gone from the fresh-faced, 21-year-old newcomer on the Packers' offensive line to a perennial All-Pro widely regarded as one of the best left tackles in the NFL.
A veteran of 106 regular-season games, Bakhtiari is in rarefied air alongside Pro Football Hall of Famer Forrest Gregg, as the only two offensive tackles in team history to be selected to four consecutive AP All-Pro teams.
All before Bakhtiari's 29th birthday next month.
The 6-foot-4, 310-pound left tackle would be lying if he said he doesn't think about the legacy he's constructing while protecting the blind side of two-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But past accolades pale in comparison to his biggest goal.
Doing it again in 2020.
"I don't live in those thoughts because in order to make those thoughts a reality, I have to conquer the day, not the week or the year," Bakhtiari said. "You gotta start micro in order to make it a macro thought or macro dream. I just try to be the best I can every day. That's just really kind of been me."
The most jarring part of Bakhtiari's progression is how the landscape has changed during his time in Green Bay. Only two players – Rodgers and kicker Mason Crosby – have worn a Packers uniform longer than Bakhtiari on the current roster.
Gone are T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton and Clay Matthews, who once advised a young Bakhtiari, "The better you play, the more you can talk." Those words of wisdom from his close friend and training partner stayed with Bakhtiari throughout his first seven NFL seasons.
It's why even when the individual accolades began pouring in for Bakhtiari in 2016, he still ceded the leadership of the O-line room to veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga. That arrangement concluded in March when Bulaga signed with the Los Angeles Chargers as a free agent after 10 seasons in Green Bay.
"When I came in here, I was a fourth-rounder and I knew my place was 'speak when spoken to and talk with my actions, not with my words.' That was what I wanted to prove to my teammates," Bakhtiari said.
"I was going to follow in line until it was time, so my biggest thing is never stepping on anyone's toes regardless of where I ascend to. So this personality you're seeing more and more that comes out, as I've grown, I have then spoken more."
Now, it's Bakhtiari's turn in front of the room. In that regard, it's a role he's actively been preparing for, with how available Bakhtiari has made himself to incoming rookies over the years.
It doesn't matter if it's 2019 first-round pick Rashan Gary, an outside linebacker whom Bakhtiari worked with after training-camp practices last summer, or Elgton Jenkins, a second-round pick out of Mississippi State who wound up starting 14 games at left guard next to Bakhtiari in 2019 after Lane Taylor suffered a season-ending biceps injury.
"Dave's a pro," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "He definitely likes to have a lot of fun, but I think when it comes down to it, he is able to balance having fun and being a pro. I think that's why he's the player he is today. He always gives great effort. He's somebody we can always count on."
The accolades are nice but Bakhtiari has never requested a pat the back for a job well done. Those things will come from your actions on the field. He learned that from seven years blocking for Rodgers, who never once has touted his own greatness in conversations with Bakhtiari.
Bakhtiari, entering a contract year in 2020, has a long list of personal goals he still wants to achieve by the time he's done playing. He's constantly looking for ways to reinvent himself as a player in order to make those goals a reality.
Despite being one of elder statesmen on the roster, Bakhtiari still enjoys being around the locker room and joking with his teammates – and sometimes even the media. It's all been a part of a seven-year learning process that's forged Bakhtiari into the man he is today.
"I love the game," Bakhtiari said. "When I do hang it up … whenever that may be, the No. 1 thing I don't want to do is I don't want to look back with any regret; regret on how my attitude was on a certain day, on how I played a certain game and how I presented myself in a daily capacity.
"I definitely want to, when I do look back, just smile and be like, 'Yeah, I had a great time.'"