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Poppinga A Rare Mix Of Size, Speed, Maturity


At 6-foot-3, 259 pounds, Brady Poppinga, the Green Bay Packers' second fourth-round selection of the 2005 NFL Draft, and the 125th player taken overall, doesn't look like your typical linebacker.

He isn't.

For the first three years of his college career, Poppinga was an 'undersized' defensive end for Brigham Young, making 104 tackles and 13 sacks. But after injuries forced the Cougars to juggle their roster, Poppinga became an 'oversized' linebacker as a senior, an imposing figure who pro personnel director Reggie McKenzie said can run a 4.6-second 40-yard dash.

"(Defensive coordinator Jim) Bates wants guys who can run and hit," McKenzie said. "He'll fit that. You don't have to be 5-11 and 220 to run and hit. We can find bigger people to do that, and we think we have that in Poppinga."

Poppinga was actually recruited to BYU as a middle linebacker, so he wasn't totally starting from scratch when he made 79 tackles, including 12 tackles for loss, last season. But he's far from a finished product.

Given his size, Poppinga gives the Packers another capable pass-rusher and the power to clog up the running game on the strong side. But West Coast scout Sam Seale said Poppinga is also nimble enough to backpedal into coverage as necessary.

"You could get a highlight film where you could make anyone look good," Seale said, "but you could put in game film and see (Poppinga) drop back 15, 20 yards downfield and come back and make plays.

"He was a pretty good pass-rusher. He's another guy who can do more than one thing; instead of taking him out of the game, you can put him out on the corner (to rush the quarterback). That's more value."

In addition to his physical traits, Poppinga also brings a maturity and life experience that could help ease his transition into the NFL.

Older than the average draftee at 25 (26 in September), Poppinga is already married and a father. His collegiate football career was delayed while he went on his two-year Mormon mission to Uruguay from 1998-2000, where he not only learned a new language but perseverance, too.

"It was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life, just because I left my family and friends and there's nothing that even comes close to resembling football down there," Poppinga said. "It was very difficult, but one of the greatest experiences of my life.

"I tried playing (soccer) a little bit, but I don't like to run without hitting people ... I learned how much I truly loved football. My passion for the game, my drive to be the best I could, just increased in that time because it was taken away from me."

Poppinga described himself as a "relentless" player and said he would do whatever the coaching staff asked of him in order to get on the field. That's not hard to believe. Asked to switch to linebacker before his senior season, Poppinga didn't balk or hesitate.

"I said, 'Let's do it, man,'" Poppinga recalled. "And it's worked out pretty good."

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