Picks Graduate From School of Hard Knocks

Whether it was Carl Bradford's father dying in his arms or Meech Goodson's father sentenced to more than 27 months of prison, most of the Packers' selections have reached the NFL after facing difficult circumstances. General manager Ted Thompson said he has a "personal bias" toward those kind of players.

Who knows if they can play, but there's no denying the Green Bay Packers' draft picks are battle-tested.

HaHa Clinton-Dix played for national championships at Alabama.

Davante Adams put up staggering numbers as the featured receiver at Fresno State.

Khyri Thornton kept his head up and his motor running despite one loss after another after another for Southern Mississippi.

With California ditching the traditional tight end in favor of a four-receiver scheme, Richard Rodgers had to drop more than 30 pounds to avoid being nothing more than a practice-field blocking dummy.

Carl Bradford's father died in his arms after a heart attack.

A suspension and position change gave Corey Linsley the wake-up call that he needed.

Jared Abbrederis was a walk-on quarterback before emerging as a star receiver.

Demetri Goodson's father is in prison.

Jeff Janis moved to running back as a senior in high school because of a broken finger that prevented him from catching the ball.

The catch-all term for it is "intangibles." It's that unquantifiable "something." Maybe it's John Glenn's "right stuff." But in a league in which success is difficult to attain and even more difficult to maintain, having successfully dealt with adversity can be a huge asset.

"I think we try to look at a young man's path on how they got to where they got," general manager Ted Thompson said on Saturday. "There's a number of stories in this draft if you went through all the teams in the league. The hardship and the difficulty of these young men getting to where they get to, I think I do have a personal bias for those people that have the hardest track, and I think it's very impressive on the part of these young men to get to where they get considering where they started and how they had to go through life."

It's always been Thompson's way of building a roster, whether it's the draft or free agency. He recognizes that it isn't fantasy football. It's not about drafting a track team or selecting a bunch of big names from big schools. It's about finding the right combination. The right player at the right position; the right fit on the field and in the locker room.

Playing for a winner is easy. Playing for a loser is hard. During Thornton's final two seasons at Southern Mississippi, the Golden Eagles won just one game. Still, Thornton kept working hard, kept playing hard, kept trying to keep his teammates motivated.

"If you push through and fight through anything, you will have great results," he said. "I felt like, I had an opportunity to play college football. A lot of times when I used to go home, people reminded me of that. They reminded me others would like to be in my position. Every game, every day … was a blessing."

When Cal changed coaches and offensive schemes, Rodgers was told roughly the equivalent of "shape up or ship out." Rodgers played as a 278-pound tight end as a sophomore in 2012. New offensive coordinator Tony Franklin called Rodgers "slow and fat and out of shape." To get on the field as one of the slot receivers in the Bears' four-receiver scheme, Rodgers dropped 33 pounds to get down to a shapely 245. He responded with 39 catches for 608 yards, good for an impressive average of 15.6 yards per catch.

Nobody has gone through more than Bradford. About 14 months ago, his father had a heart attack and died in his arms. Playing for his dad, Bradford rang up 8.5 sacks, 19 tackles for losses and three forced fumbles en route to being an honorable mention All-American.

"It was the most difficult thing I've ever been through in my life," Bradford said. "To have your father pass away in front of you in your arms, it's something I'll never forget. It's always a memory that's there in my head when I close my eyes at night…"

Said Thompson: "He's a look-you-in-the-eye, grown man."

Linsley gives the Packers a heated center competition with J.C. Tretter. Linsley had a chance to start at guard for the Buckeyes in 2011. Instead, he was hit with a two-game suspension for a violation of team rules. That wound up being the turning point for his career. He became the starting center in 2012 and was first-team all-Big Ten as a senior.

"I felt as if I needed a change in my life because I obviously wasn't going down the football path that I wanted to," Linsley said. "Coach (Urban) Meyer, he said, ‘Are you going to commit yourself to the football team?' I said, ‘Yeah, I take responsibility for what I did. From now, I'm doing whatever you want. I‘m all-in.' That's really what sparked a change. I gave my heart to the team, which I plan to do for the Packers, too. It all turned out all right."

Michael Goodson is the father of three NFL players: Jets running back Mike Goodson, Cowboys safety Jakar Hamilton and, now, Meech Goodson. Michael was convicted in 2007 for mortgage fraud, the $12 million sum of illegal dealings resulting in a prison sentence of 27 years, four months. "Meech" Goodson sees his father twice a month.

"It's weird to be able to see him but not be able to leave with him," Goodson said. "But it's always good so see him and talk to him and be able to touch him. It's always good to see him, for sure."

Goodson, the former starting basketball point guard at Gonzaga, enrolled at Baylor to play football beginning with the 2011 season. However, his first two seasons were ruined by season-ending injuries. Mostly healthy in 2013, Goodson intercepted three passes and ranked among the national leaders with 16 breakups.

And now, he's in the NFL, having been one of the Packers' graduates from the School of Hard Knocks.

"Just the best feeling in the world," he said. "I just felt like – started screaming, jumping around. Made me feel like a little kid. The best feeling in the world for sure."


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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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