Ten years ago, in his first draft as Green Bay Packers general manager, he famously plucked California’s Aaron Rodgers in the first round when the Packers still had 35-year old Brett Favre on the roster.
Then, in 2008, he took Louisville’s Brian Brohm in the second round after Rodgers earlier that spring had been named the starter following Favre’s initial retirement.
And on Saturday afternoon, seizing the opportunity, he nabbed a 2014 pre-season Heisman Trophy candidate with the pedigree of a first-rounder at No. 147 overall.
Said Packers Director of Player Personnel Eliot Wolf when asked if he thought UCLA’s Brett Hundley would be available in the fifth round, “No. I was shocked.”
So was Hundley.
“I wanted to be the No. 1 pick,” said Hundley. “Obviously that’s always everybody’s expectations. But I had a hope or at least an expectation to maybe go the first day. Obviously that didn’t come true. Or the second day. But like I said, I’m here, I got my opportunity and that’s all I ask for.”
That Hundley arrives in Green Bay to battle for the backup spot behind the 31-year old Rodgers, the reigning NFL MVP, might just be good fortune. Looking to acquire additional picks, the New England Patriots called the Packers looking for a trade. To acquire an additional seventh rounder (the Packers No. 247 overall) they gave the Packers the No. 147 overall selection and took the Packers No. 166 pick overall. The unexpected move up in the fifth round gave the Packers the opportunity to take Hundley.
“There wasn’t any plan. It’s just something that happened,” said Thompson. “We felt like there was an opportunity there to do something that quite frankly we always would like to do but sometimes we don’t have the ability to do it. But we like taking quarterbacks and felt like that was a good value pick there.”
Hundley started 40 games with the Bruins and finished first in school history in total offense (11,713 yards), completions (837) and touchdown passes (75) over his career. He also was second in six other categories. But the Packers’ focus, according to Wolf, was on his final season at UCLA when he was the most polished. And according to Hundley, he only met with the Packers once during the pre-Draft process – for an interview at the Scouting Combine.
“I kind of thought he was a football nerd. He was really engaging,” said Wolf. “I thought he knew his offense front and back. He was eager to please. He didn’t want to talk about anything other than football. It was pretty impressive.”
Said Hundley: “I love football. It’s just who I am and what’s bred inside of me. I love being a quarterback. I love knowing everything about the game. I could sit here and watch film all day with you and just learn. I like knowledge to put it like that. If I don’t know something, I want to know it, and I think that’s the way I approach things. That’s the way I approach football. I think Green Bay is the perfect organization to learn as much as possible, and they have the best coaches to help me do that, and Aaron Rodgers.”
Hundley played in a spread offense under head coach Jim Mora but his rare athletic ability was attractive to the Packers. At 6-3, 227 pounds he has the ability to get out of the pocket and throw on the run. Additionally, he ran for 30 touchdowns in his career and had runs of 86 and 72 yards.
“The ability to play beyond the designed play, the 2.3 seconds that everything is designed to go a certain way and getting into extended plays and things like that, I mean, he has a ton of that,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
Despite fumbling 29 times over the last three seasons, Hundley’s interception totals went from 11 to nine to five (in 271 attempts). In 2014, he completed a personal best 69.1% of his passes at 8.1 yards per attempt.
Hundley is the first quarterback taken by the Packers in the NFL Draft since 2012. Thompson had taken just five in 10 previous drafts. Three of those quarterbacks – B.J. Coleman (2012, seventh round), Matt Flynn (2008, seventh round) and Ingle Martin (2006, fifth round) – were considered developmental prospects. Hundley would not seem to fit that category even though his chances of playing in Green Bay are slim if Rodgers stays healthy.
Could he be a long-term pick to give the Packers future bargaining power?
“That wasn’t talked about a whole lot,” said Wolf. “I mean, we like the player, we like the prospect. It felt like he would have a chance to come in and compete to be Aaron’s backup. And the value is there, I think we got good value in the trade with New England.”
For now, Hundley joins Rodgers, Scott Tolzien, and recently-signed second-year pro Matt Blanchard in the quarterback room for the Packers. Though he could have had the chance to start elsewhere in the league for a quarterback-starved team, Hundley will start similarly to Rodgers 10 years ago.
“It’s a blessing in disguise and you know I have a chip on my shoulder and I’m coming in to work and that’s what I’ve come down to,” said Hundley. “I’m just coming in, I’ve got my opportunity, that’s the way I look at it. It’s a blessing in disguise, I’m where I’m supposed to be and I know when I get there I’m going to continue to work and do what I’ve always done.”