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Rookie defensive duo from Georgia settling in, blazing new trail

Quay Walker, Devonte Wyatt both had humble moments to overcome

Packers LB Quay Walker & DL Devonte Wyatt
Packers LB Quay Walker & DL Devonte Wyatt

GREEN BAY – It didn't take long for Green Bay to feel like home to the Packers' top two draft picks.

In fact, it took just one meal in the team cafeteria.

Not long after first-round selections and Georgia defensive standouts Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt arrived for rookie minicamp, they were sitting down to eat with their college teammate and fellow first-round pick from last year, Eric Stokes.

While Stokes started by giving them the lowdown on Green Bay, the conversation soon turned to the odds they'd be sitting at that table together, and how excited they are to all play defense from the same huddle again.

"We were just talking, man … talking about how amazing it is, how we're all on the same team, how we're all on the next level, how far we came," Wyatt said. "Because about four years ago, we were like, 'We wanna go first round. We wanna do this. We wanna play together.' Just doing that now is just a dream come true."

If Walker and Wyatt can put together the type of high-impact rookie seasons Stokes did in 2021, the Packers' already solid defense is bound to take another step forward.

The newest arrivals share more than just friendship and draft status, though. Both Walker and Wyatt have endured some humbling times to get where they are.

For Walker, his trial was not becoming a full-time starter until last year, his senior season. Despite being converted from basketball to football during high school, he was a highly sought-after recruit who didn't necessarily expect to have to bide his time.

So while he threw himself into special teams and anything else he was asked to do, he did consider transferring to get more playing time.

"That was hard," Walker said. "To be honest with you, I wanted to leave. But I just trusted it out. Everybody's plan is going to be different. Everybody's not going to have an easy road, or however you want to put it. So I just kept my head down and kept working."

Walker said his position coach, Glenn Schumann, helped him get through it so he didn't "throw in the towel" on his Georgia career, or football in general.

He eventually became a major player on Georgia's national championship team and once-in-a-generation defense, even if he wasn't tagged with all the accolades his teammates received. Loaded with athleticism at 6-4, 241, he's determined to make that all-encompassing draft buzzword, upside, truly mean something.

"I think my ceiling, I never reached that at Georgia," he said. "There's a whole lot of things you can do with me."

Meanwhile Wyatt made a name for himself a bit sooner, but his growth isn't without its humble roots as well.

Recruited to come to Georgia, Wyatt had academic issues that detoured him for a year to junior college in Hutchinson, Kan. Learning how to live on his own and manage his own schedule, even at a place "with nobody around, far from home," turned out to be a blessing.

He also dealt with some off-the-field incidents at Georgia, which Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst said the organization investigated thoroughly before bringing him to Green Bay for a visit and drafting him.

Last but not least, he had to be put in his place by his own head coach, Kirby Smart, when Wyatt considered entering the draft a year early, in 2021.

"He just kept it real with me," Wyatt said. "He said no team sees me as an elite defensive tackle. Deep down, I knew I was that elite defensive tackle, so that's what made me come back."

He also got in better shape, dropping from the 330 pounds he was carrying during the COVID season in 2020 to the 300-305 range last year. That's the weight he played at to earn second-team All-America honors and run a 4.77-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine.

The college career and pre-draft process are in the rear-view mirror now, though, for both promising rookies. The NFL awaits.

But last weekend surely won't be the last time they sit down and reunite with Stokes. It's just that the meals and chats will be as much if not more about the present and the future than the past.

"Yeah, felt like old times," Walker said. "Been a minute since all three of us got together."

The Green Bay Packers held their final day of rookie minicamp on Saturday, May 7, 2022.