Skip to main content

Packers rookie safety Javon Bullard doesn't 'fake the funk'

Second-round pick ready to bring physicality, energy to Green Bay’s defense

S Javon Bullard
S Javon Bullard

GREEN BAY – Javon Bullard held his emotions in check the best he could, but there was bound to be at least one slip-up.

Surrounded by dozens of friends and family, the Georgia safety sprung from his couch after taking a call during last month's NFL Draft that would change Bullard's life forever.

He's gonna be a Packer.

Now there may have been a word of profanity mixed in that jubilant announcement, but nobody around Bullard seemed to mind. It was justified. A lifetime dream was attained and the 5-foot-10, 198-pound safety was headed to Green Bay.

"I'm really surprised I got away with it because my mama was right there beside me," said Bullard, smiling. "I can't fake the funk, man. It was an amazing moment for me, one of the best feelings I ever had, one of the best moments I ever had in my life."

Bullard's second-round selection (No. 58 overall) technically made him the second safety off the board, but his versatility extends beyond a positional label. Before patrolling the Bulldogs' back end last season, Bullard first broke into Georgia's starting lineup as a nickel cornerback in 2022.

Following a three-year run in Athens that produced two national championships, the 21-year-old Bullard threw his name into the draft hat after a true junior season in which he recorded 56 tackles, five pass breakups and two interceptions in 12 starts.

A 4.47-time in the 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine solidified Bullard's draft stock but also in his corner was the favorable first impression he left on members of Green Bay's coaching staff when he was a three-star recruit at Baldwin (Ga.) High School.

New Packers passing game coordinator Derrick Ansley recruited Bullard on behalf of the University of Tennessee, while incoming defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley was in similar pursuit as the head coach at Boston College. The safety ultimately chose to stay close to home, but both coaches came away impressed with Bullard.

From a pure makeup standpoint, Bullard's speed and thickness stood out most for Hafley.

"Just loved his tape. Loved the way he played," Hafley said. "He's a physical guy. He can run, he can cover, he can play deep, he can play in the slot, he can blitz. He's bigger when you see him.

"He's a sharp guy. His ability to learn and process in those two days (of rookie minicamp) was impressive. You get a guy who can play that fast and can take what he learned in the meeting room and bring it out to the field, and he's got a chance."

The Packers completely overhauled their back end this offseason, signing New York Giants safety Xavier McKinney in the opening days of free agency and tripling down on the position in the draft. In addition to Bullard, Green Bay selected Oregon's Evan Williams in the fourth round and Oregon State's Kitan Oladapo in the fifth.

It's a strategy that closely mirrors how General Manager Brian Gutekunst approached a transcendent 2019 offseason at safety in which the Packers drafted Maryland's Darnell Savage in the first round a little more than a month after signing Adrian Amos as a free agent.

The rookie trio is set to compete with returning veterans Anthony Johnson Jr.., Zayne Anderson and Benny Sapp III later this summer. Until then, Bullard and Williams commanded the secondary during the Packers' rookie minicamp two weeks ago. It was a non-contact practice, but their collective talent came as advertised.

"This game is supposed to be played one way and one way only and that's fast and physical," Bullard said. "Really, it's that physicality aspect and passion, just the love for the game and my passion and energy, that I bring."

After connecting with McKinney before rookie minicamp, Bullard now has the chance to work with the fifth-year veteran on a daily basis. Perhaps the two could even see the field together during organized team activities, which begin next week.

The rookie's versatility also could be a major boon for the Packers in the slot, as well, after the departure of Jonathan Owens leaves Green Bay with an opening in the six-DB dime.

"Javon was a corner originally coming out of high school, very versatile," Ansley said. "He was really tough then and he's tough now.

"He's just a phenomenal skill set. He can do a lot of different things. He's smart, can pick it up quickly, very instinctive, and when he gets to the point of contact, he gets there with a chip on his shoulder."

Bullard won't be alone in Green Bay. In addition to his safety connections, Bullard is in a text chain with Georgia's three other defenders on the Packers' roster: defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt, linebacker Quay Walker, and cornerback Eric Stokes.

If you ask Bullard, it's no accident the "G" is staying on his helmet. With a handful of former Bulldogs alongside him, Bullard feels the same football-first vibe in Green Bay that he felt during his three seasons playing in front of 90,000 at Sanford Stadium.

"God don't make no mistakes, man. He put me in this position for a reason," Bullard said. "I'm extremely blessed to be in this position, to have those guys that I looked up to when we were in school, so to have them again is huge, man, going into my new chapter in my life."