Jermauria Rasco worked for years to make it to the NFL.
When it was time to pick his team as an undrafted free agent, Rasco left it in the hands of his agent, Zeke Sandhu.
“When I wasn’t drafted,” Rasco said, “I talked it over with my agent and said, ‘This is what I’m paying you for. This is why I signed with you. This is why I’m paying you. It’s up to you. Whatever you feel is the best fit.’”
It was a tough decision. Rasco, a two-year starter at LSU, said he talked to about 10 teams, with even more in contact with Sandhu. Ultimately, Rasco joined the Green Bay Packers, where he will make the transition from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker.
“With teams that drafted guys, of course we didn’t want to try to compete with them,” said Rasco, knowing how most teams will go with a draft pick over an undrafted player, even if the undrafted player has outplayed the draft pick throughout training camp. “I’m ready to compete with the guys that are already here. I just looked at it like this was the best opportunity.”
Another factor for Rasco is Green Bay’s undrafted history, in general, and its history of undrafted outside linebackers, specifically. In 2010, Frank Zombo started eight games and finished fourth on the team with four sacks — plus added another in the Super Bowl. In 2011, Vic So’oto had one sack. In 2012, Dezman Moses started six games and finished third on the team with four sacks. In 2013, Andy Mulumba started two games and had one sack. In 2014, Jayrone Elliott led the NFL in sacks in the preseason and, though he played sparingly on defense during the season, finished second on the team with 15 tackles on special teams.
“That’s what my agent was telling me,” Rasco said. “If you go to some other place, they might just try to use you up. Here in Green Bay, they have a lot of undrafted guys that have made the team and been in the league. I fully understand the opportunity that’s here is a good one. If you’re good enough, you’re going to play — no matter if you’re first round or undrafted or a tryout. At the end of the day, you’re going to get an opportunity to play ball.”
That’s all Rasco wants. It was a bit of a surprise that he wasn’t drafted. As a senior, he had 71 tackles (24 solo), a team-high four sacks, 7.5 tackles for losses, a team-high eight quarterback hits and one forced fumble. Compare that to his bookend at LSU, Danielle Hunter, who went in the third round to Minnesota. Hunter had 73 tackles (30 solo), 1.5 sacks, a team-high 13 tackles for losses, two quarterback hits and one forced fumble.
Where Hunter had Rasco beat was on potential. Rasco, who wasn’t invited to the Scouting Combine, was 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds at LSU’s pro day, with a 4.77 in the 40, a 28.5-inch vertical and 12 reps on the bench. At the Combine, Hunter was 6-foot-5 and 252 pounds, with a 4.57 in the 40 and 25 reps on the bench; at pro day, he had a 36.5-inch vertical.
The Packers have a strong outside linebacker corps with Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, Mike Neal, Nick Perry and Elliott joining Mulumba and Nate Palmer (both on injured reserve), Adrian Hubbard (practice squad) and James Vaughters (undrafted).
So, while his agent sent Rasco to Green Bay, it will be up to Rasco to stay through the final cutdown in early September.
“I’m not disappointed at all,” Rasco said about going undrafted. “At the end of the day, it just wasn’t in God’s plan for me to get drafted and He’s taken me a different route. I’m enjoying it here. I’m kind of glad that I signed in undrafted free agency here.”
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