Notebook: Hometown hero gets chance

Local product Ken DeBauche gets a chance to challenge incumbent punter Jon Ryan; Packers have 'some plans' for Favre's locker

Former University of Wisconsin punter Ken DeBauche is getting a chance to live his dream this weekend.

The undrafted free agent lived only about 10 minutes down U.S. 41 from Lambeau Field. With a successful rookie orientation camp, DeBauche will be positioned to battle incumbent Jon Ryan during training camp.

"It's a dream come true," said DeBauche, a second-team all-Big Ten selection last season. "To be honest, this just seems right. I never imagined playing college (football) for anyone other than the University of Wisconsin, and I never saw myself playing for a team other than the Green Bay Packers."

His work will be cut out for him. Ryan's net average of 37.6 yards per punt last season ranked 12th in the NFL, pretty impressive considering he doesn't benefit from kicking in a dome or in a warm climate. For comparison, Craig Hentrich's best net during his four seasons as the Packers' punter was 36.0.

DeBauche, meanwhile, had a gross average of 41.6 yards per punt as a senior and 41.8 as a junior, compared to 44.8 as a sophomore. So, while he impressed the Packers enough to get this chance, DeBauche recognizes he'll need to do better to be the Packers' punter in September.

But at least he has a contract. The other Wisconsin player at the camp — record-setting running back Justin Beaver, the Division III player of the year from UW-Whitewater — is working to earn one. He's one of 19 players here on a tryout basis.

Though Beaver isn't even 5-foot-8 — it was an odd juxtaposition to see him lined up next to 6-foot-8 tight end Joey Haynos at one point — and played at a low rung of college football, GM Ted Thompson said the tryout wasn't a case of throwing a bone to a state kid.

"We don't waste people's time — his or ours — with stuff like that," Thompson said. "We wanted to take a look at him. That's it. The fact that he's a Wisconsin guy is nice, but it has nothing to do with what we do.

Thompson had the same sentiments regarding DeBauche.

"If there was a better punter in our eyes that wasn't from Green Bay, we would've signed the other punter," Thompson said. "The fact that he's from Green Bay, it's a nice touch, and I'm sure the high school (Bay Port) is fired up, but our ultimate job is to put the best competition out there. While I think it's nice, we don't do it to be nice."

Favre shrine?

Even though Brett Favre announced his retirement almost two months ago, the quarterback's exit from the NFL doesn't exactly seem a certainty.

So, you can't blame the Packers for not emptying Favre's locker.

But, the specter of a possible Favre comeback — no matter how farfetched — isn't why the future Hall of Famer's locker remains intact.

"I think it's more than a locker," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Friday from the team's rookie orientation camp. "It's a locker of a very special player in the history of our organization, and there are some plans for the future, and we'll address that when it comes. I'll just leave it at that."

Asked about Favre's locker, McCarthy said: "Who do you want me to put in there?"

"I wouldn't want his locker, especially after his hygiene, my goodness," McCarthy joked.

The new starter, Aaron Rodgers, has his locker next to Favre's. Next to Rodgers is rookie quarterback Brian Brohm.

"He's a guy that every kid, at least my age, grew up watching," Brohm said. "Loved watching him play. Every kid wants to be like him. So, it's pretty cool to be in the same locker room as him."

Oh, brother

Rookie defensive end Jeremy Thompson is in the unusual position of having his brother, offensive tackle Orrin Thompson, as a teammate. That means they'll likely butt heads occasionally during one-on-one pass-rushing drills during training camp.

"Sometimes, I think I'll be tempted to take it easy on him or let him take it easy on me," the rookie Thompson said. "But we know we can't do that, because football is very competitive. We both have jobs (on the line). It'll be weird at first, but we'll get used to it."

The younger Thompson, a fourth-round pick out of Wake Forest, said his brother didn't offer any advice. His presence, however, will make the transition easier.

"Having a familiar face in the locker room will make me feel a little bit more comfortable," Jeremy Thompson said. "But when it's comes down to football, football is football. It doesn't matter if you know somebody or don't. It's how you perform on the field."

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