Former Vol Justin Harrell Spends His First Day As An NFL Player

A number of NFL teams are holding mini-camps this weekend.
It's the team's first chance to check out the young men they drafted last weekend at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

The Green Bay Packers made former Vol Justin Harrell their number one selection.
Harrell says he's quite happy to be wearing the Historic Green & Gold:

Justin Harrell says among other things, "I'm gonna come and get myself in position to help this team."

Justin Harrell had been in Green Bay less than a full day, and already he was feeling at home.

When he arrived in town Thursday afternoon, the Green Bay Packers' first-round draft pick out of Tennessee took a short ride from his hotel to Lambeau Field, and looking around he saw a lot of similarities to his roots in Martin, Tenn.

"It really reminds me of my hometown," said Harrell in his introductory news conference, after being presented with his No. 91 Green Bay jersey by General Manager Ted Thompson. "Just riding through the neighborhoods...it looks a lot like home and it's a place I know I'll be able to get settled in and have a good time."

Martin is actually much smaller than Green Bay, with a listed population of just over 10,000 people. But it has produced another Packer in offensive tackle Chad Clifton, and though the two haven't spoken since Harrell's arrival, Harrell says he's received advice from Clifton in the past and knows he'll be able to lean on him now that they're teammates.

Much like Clifton ended up doing as a rookie on the offensive line in 2000, Harrell expects to come in and compete for a starting role on the defensive line his first season. He said he hasn't discussed yet with the coaches where they'd like his playing weight on the interior of the defensive line (he weighs 310 pounds now), but he plans to bring the same attacking style of defense he played at Tennessee, particularly in defending the run.

"I'm going to come in and work as hard as I can and try to put the coaching staff in a position that I'll be ready to start and ready to play," Harrell said. "I'm going to get myself in the best shape, and when the rotation comes around I plan on being a starter."

Harrell indicated he's nearly fully recovered from the torn biceps that forced him to miss all but three games of his senior season in Knoxville. He's seven months removed from surgery and needs to gain a little more strength back, but he doesn't expect the bicep to limit him during this weekend's rookie orientation camp or the full-squad mini-camp coming up in two weeks.

Harrell never felt the injury was career-threatening, having been told by doctors that they expected a 100 percent recovery and that the muscle would actually come back stronger. He was depressed about having his college career end prematurely, but he quickly had to get himself focused on the future and not the past.

"I talked with parents, family, a lot of friends, and the coaching staff at Tennessee, and they pretty much reassured me that I still had a chance to play some football," he said. "I couldn't mope around. I had to go and get myself ready for this whole draft process, which I did, and now I'm in the final stages of my rehab. Everything's pretty good."

That includes his attitude towards Packers fans, many of whom booed Harrell's selection on draft day, hoping the team would fill a more immediate need on offense at running back or receiver.

Those positions were addressed later in the draft, and Harrell believes the fans will give him a chance to prove himself. He noted that on his plane ride Thursday from Minneapolis to Green Bay, one passenger noticed that his large body was crammed in between two other people and offered him his more comfortable seat. There were also some fans at the airport that wished the incoming rookies luck upon their arrival.

"Everything since I've been here has been great," he said. "I'm going to try to show everybody the Packers didn't make a bad decision selecting me and I'm just going to continue doing what I've been doing my whole life. It got me to this point right here, so there's no reason to change now."

Harrell conceded the fans' initial reaction was just an indication of their loyalty and passion toward their team. Since he's been in Green Bay, Harrell has been learning more and more about the history and tradition of the Packers.

All the rookies had dinner at the stadium Thursday night in an upper-level suite overlooking the field and the names in the ring of honor. They also watched a video on the history of the Packers.

No stranger to tradition, having come from a program like Tennessee and becoming the last player there to wear Reggie White's No. 92, Harrell feels like he's starting over but is ready to make some new history of his own.

"Today is going to be our first practice, and there should be a lot of adrenaline going, a lot of emotion going," he said. "The first time you put on the Green Bay Packer helmet, and being on the same practice fields as all the great players that came through here,...just to wear the jersey and the colors, it's all just starting to sink in."

Story Courtesy: Published Reports & The Green Bay Packers


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