Number Speaks of Hopes for Clinton-Dix

It'll be up to first-round pick HaHa Clinton-Dix to pick up the baton for a defense that never recovered from the one-two punch of losing Nick Collins and Charles Woodson.

The Green Bay Packers clearly thought highly of Alabama safety HaHa Clinton-Dix when they selected him in the first round. In addition to the first-round selection, they gave him No. 21.

That number was most recently worn by a player who likley will be enshrined in Canton five years after he retires.

During his time in Green Bay, Charles Woodson was one of the best defensive players in the league. He played on the outside, in the slot, came on blitzes. He intercepted 38 passes and forced 15 fumbles during his seven-year tenure.

Perhaps more importantly, Woodson became the emotional leader of a defense that led the Packers to their most recent Super Bowl championship. Woodson, one of the playoff captains, delivered a speech for the ages following the Packers' triumph over the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game.

While the Packers cannot expect that type of impact instantly from Clinton-Dix, it does speak to the type of player they think he can be.

The Packers have done similar things with their defensive backs. After drafting Nick Collins in 2005, they gave him No. 36, which was most recently worn by 1990s All-Decade team member LeRoy Butler.

Collins, after a slow start to his career, became one of the best players at his position at his peak. He intercepted 17 passes in his final three full seasons, not including an interception returned for a touchdown in Super Bowl XLV. Unfortunately, his career was cut short by a neck injury.

Now, it'll be up to Clinton-Dix to pick up the baton for a defense that never recovered from the one-two punch of losing Collins and Woodson.

"It's like a dream come true. I'm here now and I'm ready to work." Clinton-Dix said after Friday's rookie orientation practice in the Don Hutson Center.

Clinton-Dix knows the significance of what the Packers think of him by giving him Woodson's old number.

"When they gave me the number, I was shocked." Clinton-Dix said. "Charles Woodson was one of the best, he's great at what he does. I'm just honored and happy to be able to wear that number again."

Clinton-Dix comes in with a first-round pedigree. However, like any other rookie, he is simply looking to make his mark.

"Coach made it very clear today that it doesn't matter if you're a first-round pick or a tryout guy, you're all treated the same once you get here," he said. "I don't see any difference between me being No. 1 or being a tryout guy."

He will be attempting to make his impression at a position that was one of the worst in football a season ago. Last season, Packers safeties recorded zero interceptions and zero forced fumbles. They were the only safety group in the league to fail to record an interception.

"They brought me here for a reason. They brought me here to play safety," Clinton-Dix said. "Being a first-round pick, you want to contribute any way that you can."

For now, Clinton-Dix is working through Dom Capers' complex defensive playbook and attempting to get acclimated. He had a nice pass breakup during Friday's practice, and is ready to continue to make everything about football.

Clinton-Dix steps immediately into a star-studded locker room that includes the likes of Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and the player who made the first impression on Clinton-Dix: Aaron Rodgers.

"Rodgers was one of the first guys I met. He came up and welcomed me, and I said, ‘Thank you sir.'" Clinton-Dix said.

In order to get back to a championship level, the Packers are going to need Clinton-Dix to be a massive upgrade to what they had a season ago. Their defense, since ranking third in 2010, has been in the bottom half of the league in two of the last three seasons.

It's obviously early, but Clinton-Dix did catch the eye of the man who claimed that you could write in "big letters" the defense will be better in 2014: coach Mike McCarthy.

"He's been here all week, he's off to a nice start." McCarthy said.

For McCarthy's bold-lettered prediction to come true, the Packers are going to need a lot out of a man that they believe can fill the expectations of the number they gave him the night he was drafted.

Jacob Westendorf is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and an intern for Packer Report. E-mail him at Find Jacob on Twitter at

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