Mike Trgovac majored in education at the University of Michigan.
“I went to school to play football,” Trgovac, the Green Bay Packers’ defensive line coach, said with a laugh following Tuesday’s minicamp practice.
Trgovac’s education background comes through every day on the job, but especially so for the last month, as he coached first-round pick Kenny Clark and fourth-round pick Dean Lowry from afar as the two rookies were prohibited from joining the Packers until school was out at UCLA and Northwestern, respectively.
“With the technology you have nowadays, they can sit there and watch the same thing you’re watching with the iPads and stuff like that,” Trgovac said. “We did a lot of phone calls, some Skype stuff, so it was all good.”
NFL rules allow coaches to meet with their, for lack of a better term, student-athletes, for three two-hour sessions per week.
“It helped us just because some of the mistakes that the guys made on the practice field, he would show us those plays and he would tell us, ‘You can’t make those mistakes when you come here,’” Clark said. “He’d go over every little detail that we needed to know. I think it played a huge part in helping us learn the playbook and getting us on track.”
Trgovac conducted those sessions jointly with Clark and Lowry.
“(It was) definitely (helpful), just because you have another rookie going through the same thing — he’s in the quarters system and he’s missing the same time that I’m missing,” Clark said. “We’re texting each other and trying to get all this stuff down together. And we’re roommates, so we’re learning the signals and all that stuff together. It’s good work and Coach Trgo did a good job of helping us out with that stuff. Now, we’re just applying it to the practice field.”
Oddly, while Lowry was taking three classes so he could graduate this week, Clark — a true junior last season at UCLA — had dropped out of school to concentrate on his NFL ambitions. Nonetheless, Clark wasn’t allowed to start his new job until arriving in Green Bay on Saturday. That gave him plenty of time to study his iPad playbook and work on his body, but it did nothing to help him learn the finer points of defensive line play.
“It’s just difficult,” Clark said. “Once you get drafted, you really want to be here. You think about all the excitement that you have when you get drafted. I knew the rule but I just forgot at the time and it was like, ‘Dang, I can’t be here with the guys.’ Everybody that went through it, everybody just wants to be here badly and wants to be here with the team and working out and getting to know the guys.”
The coaches essentially limited Clark, Lowry and sixth-round offensive lineman Kyle Murphy to individual drills. They figure to get more involved as the three-day minicamp continues and they catch up physically to the other players, who worked through the three weeks of organized team activities that Clark, Lowry and Murphy were forbidden from attending.
“I feel good about where I’m at, I feel good about the playbook and I feel good about everything,” Clark said. “I feel like I’m in a pretty solid spot right now.”
Trgovac agreed. With B.J. Raji’s sudden retirement and Mike Pennel’s four-game suspension, the rookies will be asked to play immediately. That Clark and Lowry won’t be a mile behind mentally will obviously help hasten their development.
“Mentally, I thought they did a very nice job,” Trgovac said. “Obviously, they’re not going to be 100 percent but even some of the little things that we coach and we do, they did a nice job. You could tell that it wasn’t as big a setback — (as if) they weren’t here and I wasn’t allowed to have any contact with them. You could tell that they’ve studied their playbook and that the sessions that we had with them paid off, because they did a nice job assignment-wise.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.