Ripkowski Will Challenge Kuhn

The Packers made three picks in the sixth round to conclude the draft, including the Oklahoma fullback who took a predraft visit to Green Bay.

The Green Bay Packers re-signed popular fullback John Kuhn during free agency.

However, there’s no guarantee Kuhn will be on the roster come September.

Among the Packers’ three sixth-round picks on Saturday was Oklahoma fullback Aaron Ripkowski at No. 206 overall. Considering Kuhn did not receive a signing bonus, they could be battling for one spot on the roster.

Ripkowski was the first of three picks in the sixth round, followed by Louisiana-Lafayette defensive tackle Christian Ringo at No. 210 and Alabama-Birmingham tight end Kennard Backman at No. 213.

Their final selection of the day, a seventh-rounder, was sent to New England in order to move up in the fifth for UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley.

Ripkowski, who had a predraft visit with Green Bay, started 17 games during his Sooners career – including nine as a senior, when he won all-Big 12 accolades. He was an excellent lead blocker on one of the top rushing offense in the nation. All six career receptions came as a senior.

“We like what we saw on tape,” general manager Ted Thompson said. “He had a good pro day so that was encouraging. We brought him in for a visit. A very sharp young man. He plays, like we mention, he played on special teams there and everything.”

Ripkowski (6-1, 238) ran in 4.70 at the Sooners’ pro day. Thompson thought he could be an effective blocker at that weight.

“We thought he was a pretty functional blocker, a square guy that stays on his feet,” Thompson said. “We think he can be an effective player in the role we’re going to try to use him.”

Added coach Mike McCarthy: “I think Aaron is an excellent fit. A fullback, a four-core player on special teams. He pulls it up in there. And I think having him and having John Kuhn and especially with John’s experience and Sam Gash, I think he’s an excellent addition also.” As a senior, Ringo finished 12th in the nation in sacks with 11.5 and seventh in the nation with 20 tackles for losses. Those numbers are first and tied for first in school history. Of his 45 tackles, 38 were solos. He added two fumble recoveries, including one he returned for a touchdown against Texas State. He had at least one sack in five of the eight conference games en route to a league-high 9.5 in Sun Belt play.

“The thing that jumps out at you with Christian Ringo is 11 sacks,” McCarthy said. “I don’t like to compare people because I think it’s unfair but Mike Daniels’ name was thrown around and that’s obviously a comparison that you definitely would love to have as a young player.”

Relayed that comment, Ringo said, “I’ve never seen him in action. But I will be Googling him.”

Ringo was 6-1, 293 at pro day with a 4.97 in the 40 and 28 reps on the bench. He played in a 3-4 and 4-3 scheme.

Backman led the Blazers with 39 receptions and finished second with 399 yards and three touchdowns. He was the team’s primary tight end all four seasons and finished with 91 catches for 979 yards and nine scores.

“I have traces of Vernon Davis,” Backman said. “A lot of people don’t know that I do block and I know a lot of people question that. I’ve blocked plenty I have no trouble with that. I’m just ready to get in and get going.”

Backman (6-3, 243) ran in 4.66 with a 35.5-inch vertical at UAB’s pro day. He played as a traditional tight end, split out and as an H-back, so that versatility fits what the Packers like to do with their tight ends.

“Athletic. I liked the fact that he sticks his face in there, too. So I think he definitely has the ability to play both displaced and in on the line,” McCarthy said.

Backman will be a footnote in history as the last player from UAB to be drafted. The school announced during the season that it was dropping the football program.

“It was crazy,” he said. “I’ve never seen so many grown men cry in one room. It was a lot of emotions flying around. From our older cats from our younger guys. Coaches. It was all kinds of depression but I’ve just been trying to think of it as a blessing in disguise. I’ve just been trying to think positive about it.”

The following is from our story on Ripkowski's predraft visit with the team.


Before games, Aaron Ripkowski paints his face black.

Mom doesn’t like it.

“Oh, no, she hates it,” Ripkowski said. “She wants to see my face. She hates when I cover it up. You know how mothers are.”

The guys he’s blocking probably hate it, too, as they grow weary of facing the hard-charging, 238-pound Oklahoma fullback snap after snap.

There’s no denying Ripkowski’s toughness. Physically, Ripkowski was the Big 12’s second-team fullback as a senior. Mentally, Ripkowski earned every snap, every start and every accolade that came his way at Oklahoma.

At Dayton (Texas) High School, he started at guard as a junior and linebacker as a senior. During the summer before his senior season, he attended an Oklahoma camp as a linebacker.

“I did some linebacker drills, because that’s what I played (in high school) was linebacker and defensive end, and they liked my footwork so they took us over to another field and had a few guys going head to head (as fullbacks) seeing who could push who around,” Ripkowski recalled. “That was a lot of fun and I guess I impressed them.”

FOR MORE, CLICK HERE for this free story.

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.


Packer Report Top Stories