Abbrederis quietly embracing hometown-hero role with Packers
May 28, 2014 at 4:00p ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Jared Abbrederis isn't a spotlight type of guy. The former walk-on at the University of Wisconsin has the demeanor of a player who's had to earn every bit of respect on the football field.
However, being born and raised less than 90 miles from Lambeau Field and being the first Badgers player drafted by the Green Bay Packers since 2001, Abbrederis is in a spotlight type of situation. That became quickly apparent during rookie orientation when Abbrederis was the headliner in a locker room media session that featured six players who were drafted before him.
"It's just part of it, so you embrace it," Abbrederis said. "It's fun."
Yes, he's a man of few words.
"You've just got to be yourself, and that's just all you can do," Abbrederis said later.
In being himself, Abbrederis is either internalizing all of his excitement or he truly is so task-oriented that playing for his childhood team isn't fazing him too much.
When Abbrederis was free from reporters, he expressed the magnitude of the situation a bit more when posting on his Twitter account. That moment came when Abbrederis logged onto the Packers official store and saw his jersey selling for $99.95.
"That's kinda crazy!" Abbrederis tweeted. "Been my dream since I was just a baby, now it's time to keep working and get better each day!"
If the entire population of Abbrederis' hometown of Wautoma, Wis. decided to attend an upcoming Packers offseason training activity (OTA) practice or training camp practice, there would be room for nearly half of those 2,218 people. But, in typical Abbrederis fashion, he downplayed any notion of there being any added pressure on him as a local player.
"No, I don't really have too much pressure," he said. "I just kind of have always said I play to glorify God. For me, that kind of takes a lot of stress out of the game. I'll do my best and let God do the rest. Obviously I want to do my best and all that, but at the end of the day I can only do the best I can. That's what I worry about: trying to do the best as possible."
Abbrederis hasn't been able to completely avoid the reactions of those from his hometown or from Badgers fans across the state.
"It feels like I have a lot of support," he said. "Everybody's going crazy, whether it's on social media, people encouraging me and saying they're behind me. So it's been great."
Though the attention on Abbrederis will never entirely dissipate, the spotlight on him will fade a bit now that he's being joined on the field by the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Randall Cobb and other notable players. The discussions will turn to whether there's a spot for Abbrederis on Green Bay's 2014 roster. And, assuming there is room for him, it will be about the role that he'll play.
Abbrederis will no longer be guarded by opposing team's top cornerbacks like he was in college. He's likely the No. 5 or No. 6 wide receiver on the Packers' depth chart at the moment, with Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Jarrett Boykin and second-round pick Davante Adams all presumably ahead of him. Abbrederis is likely going to battle with seventh-round pick Jeff Janis and 2013 holdovers Myles White, Kevin Dorsey and Chris Harper for playing time.
"Just watching him in the IPWs (individual player workouts) and a little bit (during rookie orientation), he's definitely a very good athlete, good body control," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "But he's like the rest of them, he needs to get orientated and get accustomed to what's being asked of him. Strength and conditioning, he can make some gains there. I'm very pleased he's here."
Abbrederis will also compete in the special teams return game. McCarthy acknowledged that to be the case soon after selecting Abbrederis with the 176th overall pick. Wide receivers coach Edgar Bennett is ready to see Abbrederis play as an outside receiver and in the slot, as well.
"Love Jared's versatility," Bennett said on draft night. "He'll have a great opportunity to come in and earn it."
Whether Abbrederis succeeds or fails in the NFL, the storylines will always revolve around his connection to Wisconsin, both the university and the state itself. And while Abbrederis and Packers fans certainly hope his career path is a positive one, he's glad it's in Green Bay where he'll get his shot to prove that he belongs in the league.
"I'd rather have it this way," Abbrederis said. "It's not a distraction to me. I'm more about doing my thing and not really worrying about what people think."
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