If not for the football player, then for the person a serious knee injury might have been a blessing in disguise for young Kyler Fackrell.
The newest addition to the Green Bay Packers via the NFL draft on Friday night explained: “My wife was actually pregnant with my daughter when that happened and she actually had a pretty rough pregnancy. She was sick a lot of the time. So in those days, just being able to be there for my wife through the pregnancy and support her and being able to spend a lot of time with my daughter was kind of a good thing.”
Two-year-old Delaney could be heard crying on Fackrell’s conference call with the Green Bay media at Lambeau Field shortly after being selected with the 88th overall pick in the third round of the draft. The 24-year-old Fackrell (6-5, 245) projects as an outside linebacker in the Packers’ 3-4 defensive scheme.
Described by general manager Ted Thompson as “a bit of a longer, linear guy,” Fackrell might add a different type of player to an OLB group that is power-heavy at the top with Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and Nick Perry. Fackrell flashed all-purpose skills at Utah State, considering he scored on a 99-yard interception return and also scored an offensive touchdown (on a reception) during his college career. He also posted nine career double-digit tackle games and had a school-record six quarterback hurries in a game vs. Colorado State last season.
“He’s kind of an all-around guy, has the ability to rush the passer but he has good ability in space,” said Thompson. “A good athlete. We like him.”
To play at the next level, Fackrell admits there will need to be physical improvement.
“I think definitely upper-body strength is something that I continue to work on,” he said. “I can put on maybe 10 pounds, which will help to be a little more stout in the run game and I’ll continue to work on pass rushing because it is where I have the most upside but also where I have the most to improve. And, obviously, Green Bay is a great place to learn from the guys that are in front of me.”
The 2015 season was a big one for Fackrell’s NFL prospects. As a junior in 2014, he tore an ACL in the season opener at Tennessee and missed the entire season. Prior to that season, he was on just about every watch list for defensive awards after redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons in which he averaged 84.5 tackles, 10.5 tackles for losses, four sacks,and two interceptions. He came back strong with 82 tackles, 15 tackles for losses, four sacks and seven combined forced fumbles and fumble recoveries in his senior season.
“Going into this last year, (the knee) felt great but I just hadn’t tested it and I hadn’t been in contact since it happened, obviously,” said Fackrell, who started all 13 games for the Aggies in 2015. “I was anticipating that and it actually was very strong. I wore a brace for about two practice days and I didn’t like it and it felt secure, so I took that off. It got stronger as the season went on… It feels great and I look forward to this next year.”
Perhaps most importantly, he never gave up his focus through his injury. The NFL was always on his mind and the payoff came on Friday.
“Absolutely I knew it was possible. It was still my goal,” said Fackrell. “That injury wasn’t what I had planned, what we had planned, but in a lot of ways it helped me I think. It was a blessing in disguise for our family. So we’re just grateful to be here right now until I get on the field to play with the Packers organization.”
Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at email@example.com