Making the transition from linebacker to safety midway through his college career at Virginia Tech turned out to be the easy part for Aaron Rouse.
But the more difficult circumstances he's dealt with in the past year have only helped Rouse develop both a mental toughness and a healthy outlook on life.
The Packers drafted Rouse with a third-round pick (89th overall) acquired in a trade with the Jets on Saturday, just two weeks after his school was the site of one of the nation's biggest tragedies.
Rouse was not on the Virginia Tech campus earlier this month during the horrifying shooting spree that killed 32 people, having left a day earlier. But he felt it was almost harder to watch the tragedy unfold from afar, even though he didn't personally know any of the victims.
"Virginia Tech is a tight-knit community, and when something like that happens in Blacksburg, everybody is affected," Rouse said. "As I said on NFL Network, I didn't just lose classmates, I felt like I lost teammates. But they won't be forgotten, and it will be something that makes the Virginia Tech community stronger.
"It was tough to watch something like that, and you're not there. It made you feel helpless, knowing something like that could possibly happen. Emotionally it was tough. It just touched me in a way that makes me cherish every moment in my life and want to take advantage of every opportunity given to me."
Rouse should have an opportunity to compete for playing time at strong safety with the Packers. An outside linebacker during the first three of his five years with the Hokies, Rouse switched to strong safety in 2005 and enjoyed the most productive season of his career, posting 77 tackles (35 solo), four interceptions and five passes broken up.
His numbers fell off a bit last season, to 57 tackles, one INT and two PBUs, as Rouse lost his starting job for three games. He attributed that in part to some difficulties dealing with the death of his grandfather and an illness of his mother's, and those struggles may have been part of the reason he was drafted later than he expected to be.
Because he slipped a bit in the draft, Rouse said he has a "chip on his shoulder" and is "ready to go to work." He said his motivation to make the most of his life comes from his mother, who raised Rouse and his three siblings essentially on her own, and with everything he went through last year he's learned how to deal with personal setbacks better.
"I'm just ready," he said. "I'm ready to play in the NFL and make my name known."
General Manager Ted Thompson said he'll certainly be given that chance in both the defensive backfield and on special teams.
"Like most players at Virginia Tech he's a dynamic special teams player, a heavy hitter in our opinion," Thompson said. "The coaches think he's going to be fine in coverage, running with tight ends and things like that.
"It will be competition (at safety). I think he'll be a competitive guy and jump in with the rest of our guys and we'll see how it works out. It's hard to predict how much regular defense he'll play, so we'll see."