Nance Jumps At Big Opportunity

New running back Dimitri Nance talks about the crazy turn of events that brought him to Green Bay.

On Sunday, Atlanta Falcons rookie running back Dimitri Nance was watching the Green Bay Packers play the Philadelphia Eagles. On Tuesday morning, Nance was in Green Bay to move some stuff into his new "home" at a hotel, sign a contract, take a physical and get fitted for his equipment. On Wednesday, he was on the practice field as Ryan Grant's replacement on the roster.

"We're just taking it piece by piece right now and trying to learn the protections because I've got to protect Aaron Rodgers, that's my first goal," Nance said. "Other than that, I really like how they run the ball, but I know they're a pass-first team so I've just got to go out and protect and I can also catch out of the backfield. If that's helpful, then I'll do that also."

Nance seems like an unlikely savior in the backfield. Then again, that's what everyone thought when the Packers sent a sixth-round pick to the Giants in 2007 to get an unknown running back by the name of Ryan Grant.

"It's a great opportunity," Nance said. "Stars are born anywhere. I'm going to do my best, and maybe that could happen. Right now, I'm just going to learn the playbook the best I can."

Here is what else he had to say to Packer Report and a few other reporters following Wednesday's practice.

Surprised at what happened?

I kind of new a little bit because my agent had told me that Green Bay was interested in me during the cuts. I kind of had an idea I might get the call.

Did Green Bay offer you a spot on their practice squad after you were cut by the Falcons?

Yeah, they offered me one here but I knew the Atlanta offense so I decided to stay on the practice squad over there.

No-brainer to come here I'm guessing ...

You can't really turn an opportunity down. I don't know many people who would. I just have to take the opportunity.

What did the Falcons say about your future when they cut you?

It's a game of football and running backs get banged up. I was just there playing my role on the practice squad and I was getting in on the special teams and getting pretty good at it. I was just waiting my turn over there but this opportunity knocked on the door so I took it.

This has got to be a big challenge to learn the plays at this point.

Yeah, I feel like I'm going right back to Day 1 like when I was in Atlanta. I'm learning a whole new system. I try to find the similarities in them but it's pretty difficult. It's just totally different. The coaches are helping me out, just giving me piece by piece and not just throwing it all on me.

Do they want you ready for a package of plays this week? Are they giving you a couple-week window?

I don't know. I think we'll just have to play it day by day. They're giving me the basic, main protections as of right now. I talked to the special teams coach and told him what I did in Atlanta, and he threw me in there. So, I'll have to also learn special teams if I can get on the field that way.

What did you do on special teams for them?

Personal protector on punt, L4 on kickoff (left side, second player from sideline), kickoff returner and front line on punt return.

Can you describe your style as a running back?

As a runner, I think I'm a very good inside running back. I like to find (nooks and crannies), squeeze in there. I've got pretty good quickness and low pad level and pretty powerful to break tackles. Also, I can catch the ball pretty well out of the backfield. Protection-wise, I usually know exactly who to pick up. It's just getting over there and getting it done, basically.

Did Atlanta try to keep you by putting you on their 53?

They said they would put me on their roster, but obviously they still had a lot of backs and you never know when my turn would come. Right here was an easier situation. I was coming in here on the 53 and they expected me to play early, that's what they told me, so that's why I chose to come here.

How much did your injured shoulder hurt your draft stock?

I was doing pretty good before that and I think it knocked me back just a little bit. I was just getting ready to get picked up anywhere and just prove myself.

What did you show in the preseason?

The first game against the Chiefs, I scored two touchdowns in that game. So that was a pretty good opening for me. And then throughout the preseason I think I did pretty well with the opportunities that I had. And then the last game against Jacksonville, I really showed how good I could be on special teams. I had a couple good plays on special teams, so I think that really showed I could play.

What did Edgar Bennett say to you?

He just told me I had an opportunity to play early and just giving me the offense piece by piece and not throwing it all at me, just stick by his side and go out there on the field and ask me for the plays, but not try to overwhelm myself.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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