GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Six months before Jerel Worthy was drafted by the Green Bay Packers, his best friend had a feeling that it was going to happen.
Call it intuition, a good guess or just wishful thinking, but in the second round of the draft, Worthy officially became the newest member of Green Bays defense.
"He's a huge Packers fan," Worthy said of his friend Adam. "He said, 'I have a vision that you're going to be a Green Bay Packer'. Back then, you don't believe it. But when it came true, man, I was just so excited."
Just hours after Worthy was selected at No. 51 overall, he posted a picture of himself on Twitter wearing a cheesehead, the signature hat of Packers fans. It didnt take Worthy long to find one, as Adam had owned a cheesehead for years and brought it over during the draft. Unfortunately for Adam, he wont be getting it back.
"Its mine now," Worthy said with a smile, adding that the cheesehead made its way with him to Green Bay for rookie minicamp.
Worthy, a 308-pound defensive lineman out of Michigan State, appears to be just what the Packers need in order to turn around a defense that struggled last season despite the team's 15-1 record. While Green Bay racked up wins -- in large part due to Aaron Rodgers and the record-setting offense -- its defense gave up more passing yards than any team in NFL history. The Packers also dropped to 27th in team sacks just one year after ranking second overall in that category when they won the Super Bowl.
"The veterans on this defense didn't do as well as they wanted to last year, so they have a chip on their shoulder," Worthy said. "So when you come in, you have to go with the flow of them, you have to work just as hard as them and you have to be able to pick up on the defense just as fast as they do.
"You've got to have that same attitude, that same hunger that the veterans have."
Worthy appears to be plenty motivated, partly due to how he fell a bit in the draft. Considered a possible late-first round pick, Worthy was still on the board after 50 players had been selected.
"I felt like I was a first-round guy," Worthy said.
The biggest question mark surrounding Worthy leading up to the draft was his motor, including criticisms that he didn't make an effort on every single play while on the field in college.
"Everybody that talks bad about you and everything, it's just a motivator," Worthy said. "The same people that say I don't have a good motor or anything like that, that'll be the same people that I'll be thanking later on.
"It was a little frustrating (to hear negative things before the draft) just because when you're young at this point in time and everybody's expecting so much from you, you just have to grow up a lot faster than you expected. You've just got to take everything with a grain of salt and just understand that this is a business and you've just got to come in ready to work and try to make your career as long as possible."
Worthy won't have the luxury of learning gradually and taking a few years to develop his game. Looking for a defensive end to make up for at least some of what Green Bay lost when Cullen Jenkins left in free agency nearly a year ago, the Packers will likely need him to start immediately.
Green Bay has Mike Neal, a talented second-round pick in 2010, but hes been injured frequently in his first two seasons and will be suspended for the first four regular season games due to a violation of the NFLs performance-enhancing drug policy. The Packers added Anthony Hargrove as a free agent this offseason, but hes currently battling his eight-game suspension from the league for his role in the Saints' bounty system.
That means the starting job on Green Bay's defensive line next to B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett in the Packers' 3-4 defense is likely between Worthy and Jarius Wynn. Last season, Wynn received the most snaps at that spot but did not provide the push inside that Jenkins had the year before and it adversely affected everything on defense.
"If I end up starting, that's a good thing," Worthy said. "But at the same time, I just want to hold it down while those guys (Neal and Hargrove) are away, so when they come back, it makes our defense even much more better.
"It's just a lot more guys that we can add to our stable and just win some games and become a top defense like the Packers were the year prior."
Worthy added that being a starter in Week 1 is "not really" a goal of his.
"Sometimes it (the idea of starting) can get a little overwhelming, but I'm just trying to stay within myself and stay humble and stay hungry and just get after it," Worthy said. "It's a big stage, one of the greatest organizations in professional sports and you've got to take it all in."
Slightly overwhelmed or not, during Worthy's first weekend in Green Bay for rookie minicamp, even without a helmet and no contact drills, his skill level is apparent.
"I don't like to compare players, but he has a very explosive first step, even for a big guy," coach Mike McCarthy said. "Whether hes playing the 3-technique or even the shade, hes definitely going to be a factor inside. That was evident through our drill work. Very explosive for a big guy."
As spring becomes summer and the Packers veterans begin to integrate with the rookies for organized team activities (OTA's) in the coming weeks, Worthy appears early on to be one of the surefire young players that will be playing a majority of his snaps with the first team.
"I just want to come in, work hard and have an impact right away," Worthy said.
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