GREEN BAY - It’s almost like Joey Mbu was destined for this locker room. It just took a few years to finally make it happen.
The 6-foot-3, 313-pound defensive tackle’s first exposure to the Packers came during the pre-draft process in 2015. The meeting was brief but cordial, centered mainly on Mbu’s college film at the University of Houston.
After not being taken in the NFL Draft, Mbu signed as a college free agent with Atlanta and spent his rookie season split between the Falcons’ practice squad and active roster.
A year later, Mbu once again became a free agent after he didn’t make Atlanta’s 53-man roster coming out of training camp. His second foray into free agency included another meeting with the Packers, flying to Green Bay this time for a visit.
Again, the timing wasn’t quite right. Mbu finished the 2016 season on Washington’s practice squad before playing seven games this past year with the Indianapolis Colts.
When the Colts opted to go another direction and released Mbu in May, the young defensive tackle couldn’t help but laugh when the Packers again came calling, eventually signing him during the final week of Green Bay’s offseason program.
“It was kind of like, ‘They’re bringing me in twice. Maybe they really are interested,’” said Mbu with a smile. “It was cool to see them call again. I did something that they liked in the workout, so I’m here.”
Mbu has been in the NFL long enough to know how quickly things can change and the importance of keeping a deep rolodex of options at all times.
A former team captain at Houston, Mbu has been universally praised for his character and work ethic since entering the league. He already made friends with locker neighbor Tyler Lancaster, trading numbers with the fellow defensive lineman, an undrafted rookie from Northwestern.
Mbu is aware his position is one of the deepest on the roster with recently signed All-Pro Muhammad Wilkerson joining veterans Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry.
Still, Mbu is excited to get started in Mike Pettine’s defense. A traditional two-gap run-stuffer, Mbu believes he has the necessary skill set to succeed on Green Bay’s attack-and-react front.
“I see a lot of good players,” said Mbu when asked what he sees in the defensive line room. “I don’t try to look into the future. You can’t control that.
“You start thinking too much, you get into your head. I’ve learned how to not do that over the years.”
Signed on June 11, Mbu arrived in time to participate in the Packers’ minicamp before the team dismissed for the summer. While his days were filled with learning a new playbook, Mbu doesn’t believe Green Bay will be an insurmountable transition.
Mbu planned to spend his offseason working out in Houston and perfecting the Packers’ playbook. Now in four different defenses in three years, Mbu has become an expert of sorts on what it takes to absorb a new scheme in a short amount of time.
“At least I had two days to get into learning the playbook,” laughed Mbu at the end of minicamp. “Some people don’t even get a call until the third week of the preseason. I have a chance to learn even something small to take me through the summer and get ready for training camp.”