Packers Interview One of Top Running Backs

Who is he and what are the two reasons for the team's potential interest? We've got the scoop in an exclusive from Indianapolis. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY)

The Green Bay Packers might have a star running back in Eddie Lacy and a solid backup in James Starks.

That doesn’t mean they’re not interested in adding another horse to the stable.

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The Packers had a formal interview with Boise State running back Jay Ajayi, he said on Thursday.

Ajayi posted an All-American redshirt junior season of 1,823 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns, plus added 50 receptions for 535 yards and four more scores. He’s the only player in FBS history with 1,800 rushing yards and 500 rushing yards in a single season.

“With talks with the coaches yesterday and with scouts, they tell me that my game translates very well to the NFL,” Ajayi said. “That I show that I’m a three-down back, that I’m complete, that I can catch the ball out of the backfield and, with work on my pass protection, that I’ll be able to stay on the field on third downs, as well. They say my game translates very well to the NFL.”

Packers coach Mike McCarthy, unlike most coaches in what’s become a by-committee league, covets a three-down back. More often than not in the Packers’ up-tempo offense, the personnel group on the first play of the drive as the same as the group on the last play of the drive because it prevents the defense from substituting.

“To be able to be on the field three downs, you have to be good enough running the ball on first and second down and being capable of picking up blitzes on third down, catching the ball out of the backfield on third down,” Ajayi said. “That’s where a lot of these games are won, converting on those third downs and getting more first downs. You have to find running backs who are able to do that.”

The Packers hit a second-round home run with Lacy in the 2013 draft. That’s where Ajayi is slotted to go, as well. He entered the Scouting Combine as the No. 61 overall player (No. 6 back), according to the official league rankings provided to Scout.com.

Though the 60 formal interviews generally aren’t wasted on players not on the radar, the Packers might merely be doing their due diligence on a talented underclassmen who has some baggage. As a redshirt freshman in 2011, he was arrested for stealing sweatpants and pleaded guilty to petit theft. Coach Chris Petersen nearly kicked him off the team.

“With my off-the-field issues my freshman year, it was a time where I was very immature,” said Ajayi, who was born in London to natives of Nigeria. “I made a youthful mistake and I didn’t appreciate the opportunity that was given at the time. Looking back at it to where I am today and just seeing how I’ve grown from that issue and what I’ve learned from it, it’s just night and day. I’m so much more mature now and I really appreciate the opportunity I’m given now and I feel blessed to even still be in this position because my college career could’ve been cut short early. To be where I am now and to have learned from it, is just the best feeling in the world.”

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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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