From Walk-On To Pro Prospect

The Packers think highly of the three-time all-conference defensive end from Boise State, a source told Packer Report. We talked to him in yet another story that you'll read only here.

Ryan Winterswyk was an all-state player at La Habra (Cal.) High School but didn't receiver a single scholarship offer from a big-time school.

"There's not too many 6-4 white kids playing safety at the next level," he told Packer Report matter-of-factly.

"I just wanted to play Division I football and that's why I didn't go to a (junior college). I wanted to just try it. If I was going to do Division I football, it was going to work or if it didn't, I'd just go to college normally. So, the NFL was pretty far out of the picture."

Winterswyk's position coach at La Habra, Cody Verdugo, approached his counterpart at Boise State, Marcel Yates, about Winterswyk. Then-Boise coach Dan Hawkins signed off on giving Winterswyk a chance as a walk-on.

During his first day of practice in January 2006, Winterswyk was playing safety. The next day, he was at linebacker. The next day, he was at defensive end.

Flash forward, and that 215-pound safety had blossomed into a four-year starter for the Broncos' rugged defense and a member of the Western Athletic Conference's all-decade team. The 6-foot-4, 272-pounder, who three times was selected an all-WAC first-teamer, projects as a sixth- or seventh-round draft pick, according to the NFL's official draft rankings that were provided to Packer Report. A source told Packer Report that the Packers are high on the intelligent, versatile, hard-working talent.

In 42 starts over 52 games, Winterswyk produced 21.5 sacks, 45.5 tackles for losses, 16 additional quarterback pressures and three forced fumbles. His senior season was stung by minor knee surgery in August, and he finished with 2.5 sacks and eight tackles for losses. No running play against him resulted in more than a 10-yard gain, and when he dropped into coverage, only 1-of-13 passes thrown in his area (for 9 yards) resulted in a completion.

While some teams running a 3-4 scheme see him as an outside linebacker, Winterswyk said the Packers see a defensive end. Winterswyk, who ran his 40 at the Combine in 4.96 seconds, even played some tight end, and he went through those position drills at Boise's pro day.

"I see myself more as a defensive end but in a 3-4 scheme but I do think I have the ability to play both," Winterswyk said. "I think I could put on another 15 pounds and play defensive end or I could weigh about 260 and play outside linebacker."

Winterswyk, who said he loves to surf and snowboard during his free time, said he likes watching the relentless pass-rushing exploits of Clay Matthews and Jared Allen. Thanks to extra film work with his position coach, Pete Kwiatkowski, Winterswyk said he's seen "all different kinds of schemes" and should be a quick study, which will be vital given the lockout means the draft picks will not be able to get a playbook and there will be no rookie camp following the draft.

"To tell you truth, I'm a little bit nervous and kind of tired of talking to all of my friends and family about the draft," he said. "I just want it to happen already. We've been waiting around for three months with the Combine and the pro day. Now, it's really just waiting time. I'll be excited when it's over with and hopefully they get the CBA worked out so we can get to camp pretty soon."


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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.


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