GREEN BAY – A wave of emotions hit Rashan Gary as he and his family arrived at Lambeau Field on Sunday to sign the life-changing contract he dreamt about as a child.
A journey that began in Plainfield, N.J., reached yet another milestone just hours before the Packers' Week 8 matchup with the Minnesota Vikings when the 6-foot-5, 277-pound linebacker put pen to paper on a contract extension with Green Bay.
Locked on the task in front of him, Gary admits he hasn't fully processed everything that's happened over the past 48 hours, but the 25-year-old was overcome with gratitude while signing his new deal alongside his mother, Jennifer Coney, and sister Nafessa.
"It was a wonderful moment," said Gary on Monday afternoon. "I was able to have my mom and sister in town and we call ourselves, 'The Three Musketeers.' For me to sign a contract like that, meaning that much, with my loved ones, my base, words can't really describe the feeling."
Gary's return to form after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament last November in Detroit has been one of the Packers' top stories this season.
In addition to his team-leading 4½ sacks, Gary paces the NFL in Next Gen Stats pressures (28). Since 2020, he ranks in the top 10 among NFL linebackers in QB hits per game (1.26, No. 7), sacks per game (0.53, No. 7) and Next Gen Stats pressures per game (2.96, No. 10), according to TruMedia.
Through four-plus seasons, Gary has registered 159 tackles, 66 quarterback hits, 27 sacks, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and three passes defensed in 63 regular-season games (32 starts).
Additionally, Gary has another 11 tackles (seven solo), six QB hits and 3½ sacks in four postseason appearances. Once Gary returned to the field, it seemed inevitable the two sides would get a long-term deal done.
"It's great to get that taken care of. Obviously, it's well-deserved and he's earned everything," Head Coach Matt LaFleur said. "I'm a big believer in people that approach it the right way, that are talented that come to work with mindset and determination that he possesses. He's a tone-setter. So, I'm really happy for him, I'm happy for our organization."
As the 12th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Gary has never backed down from the high expectations that accompanied his first-round selection and has worked hard to live up to the billing.
Gary firmly stepped into the spotlight in 2021, leading the Packers with 28 quarterback hits and 9½ sacks. He was on the verge of a Pro Bowl year before tearing his ACL against the Lions on Nov. 8, 2022, ending his season after just nine games.
After a grueling rehab process, Gary returned in time for the Packers' 2023 regular-season opener in Chicago. Two weeks later, the fifth-year veteran needed just 23 defensive snaps to record his first three-sack game in an 18-17 comeback victory over New Orleans.
With the knee injury behind him, Gary received the green light to play a season-high 46 snaps against the Vikings on Sunday.
"I've been saying this from Day 1, (this is) the team that gave me a chance to reach my childhood dreams, provide for my family things that I've been wanting to accomplish," Gary said. "A lot of men and people in this world can't speak certain things and have certain things happen, so I'm very thankful and very appreciative of the position I'm in right now."
A beloved member of Green Bay's locker room, Gary welcomed early tutelage from veterans Preston and Za'Darius Smith during his first two NFL seasons.
Preston Smith was one of the first to congratulate Gary on his new deal on Instagram, writing: "Congrats to my lil brother. @RashanAGary got to see you grow from a man to a beast…. Well deserved."
With the extension signed, Gary said he's ready to get back to playing ball again. His focus is already set on this Sunday's matchup with the Los Angeles Rams and helping the Packers get their season back on track.
"Man, it just makes me hungrier," Gary said. "The organization that believed in me, trusted me, and sees my growth from when I came in, and see the man that I'm still becoming and the player that I'm working to become and still on the rise to become."