Coming out of Junipero Serra High School, Scout.com had David Bakhtiari rated a two-star recruit and the No. 206 offensive tackle in the 2009 recruiting class.
Coming out of Colorado, Bakhtiari was seen as a pretty good prospect – though perhaps at guard or center. He wound up going to the Green Bay Packers in the fourth round – the ninth offensive tackle off the board and the 109th selection overall of the 2013 draft.
Now, Bakhtiari is being paid like one of the NFL’s elite left tackles.
But don’t expect that four-year contract extension, which is worth $51.67 million, to change Bakhtiari’s ways.
“I started my senior year in high school; that was my only year,” Bakhtiari said on Wednesday. “I had a couple offers, one-star recruit, signed and got a second star because … I don’t know why. I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder. That’s what’s always drove me. Even now, people go, ‘You’re on top.’ I guess from the outside looking in, they want to be like, ‘You’ve made it.’ No. I have always said this: The day I’m complacent is the day I don’t have a job.”
Bakhtiari’s ascension has been remarkable. As a rookie, he saved the Packers’ season when he replaced injured Bryan Bulaga at left tackle. Including the opening win over Jacksonville, Bakhtiari hasn’t allowed a sack in 11 consecutive games, by our unofficial count.
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers predicted this would happen and, given the importance of the left tackle in protecting the quarterback’s blind side, is obviously thankful that Bakhtiari has lived up those expectations. Week after week, tough matchup after tough matchup, Bakhtiari has delivered.
“I’ve said it over the years: I thought he was a 10- to 12-year guy at left tackle, a mainstay, a guy you can build your offensive line around,” Rodgers said on Wednesday. “And he hasn’t disappointed those expectations. I think he’s done a great job for us over the years of continuing to improve. He’s got a beautiful pass set. He’s really improved his run-game fundamentals and techniques. He’s a guy that you can count on. Tackles block ends, as (former offensive coordinator) Joe Philbin said for years around here. And he’s done a good job over the years, a great job of taking care of my back and keeping me clean. So I’m really happy for him. That’s the Packer way, as you guys know. Draft, develop and pay. And he’s another guy that deserved it, so I’m really happy for him.”
With Bakhtiari’s 25th birthday a little more than two weeks away, he has emerged as one of the NFL’s top young offensive tackles.
“I can’t say enough about David,” coach Mike McCarthy said before Wednesday’s practice. “When you look for a young man to represent your program and how to go about it, he’s done great every single day from the day he arrived here. He’s a true, true professional at a young age, and an excellent football player.”
With $12 million per season in the extension, Bakhtiari is tied for the fourth-highest-paid left tackle in the league. Now, he has too play to that standard. He did that last season. During the final 10 weeks, Bakhtiari ranked seventh among all offensive tackles in ProFootballFocus.com’s pass-blocking efficiency, which measures sacks, hits and pressures per pass-protecting snap.
So, the contract serves as validation of Bakhtiari’s career path. “Hell, yeah,” Bakhtiari allowed. But other than the number of zeroes in his bank account, not much has changed. He still needs to protect the two-time MVP quarterback. To do so, he’ll follow the same hard-working formula that’s gotten him to this point.
The money is great, he said, but he has his mind set on bigger things.
“Super Bowl, that’s the most important thing on my mind,” he said. “People say, ‘Well, that’s not really a personal goal.’ Well, yeah, it is. I win and the team wins. I think that goes hand in hand. With that, personal accolades will follow.”
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.