Iowa's Micah Hyde, shown here during a Sept. 1 game against Northern Illinois at Soldier Field in Chicago, was arrested in October for public intoxication and interference with public officials. / File/Getty Images
The light shining on NFL players never has been brighter. With it comes a trail of attention to their every action on and off the field.
When potential draft picks have had off-the-field issues, the key for the Green Bay Packers and general manager Ted Thompson has boiled down to one thing.
“We try to sort out the things that are something of a problem and other things that are maybe more like a college kid stubbing their toe,” Thompson said.
On Saturday, the Packers welcomed three draft picks with some baggage in their backgrounds, but players the team feels have put their indiscretions behind them before entering the NFL.
Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde, a fifth-round pick (159th overall) out of the University of Iowa, was arrested last October during the team’s bye week for public intoxication and interference with public officials.
Grand Valley State wide receiver Charles Johnson, the first of three seventh-round picks, was suspended from the Eastern Kentucky football team in 2007 because of what he likens to maturity issues en route to playing at three colleges in six years. Johnson spent the following year at Antelope Valley (Calif.) Community College before taking a year off school because of his father’s illness and finally arriving in Michigan in 2010.
South Florida linebacker Sam Barrington, the team’s 11th and final pick, was arrested four times during his collegiate career because of a rash of unpaid traffic citations.
Over the past eight years, Thompson hasn’t been one to draw assumptions. Last year, the Packers took safety Jerron McMillian in the fourth round following an arrest while in school at Maine, and he proved to be a model citizen as a rookie.
The Packers’ front office isn’t shy about bringing in undrafted free agents like Sam Shields and Dezman Moses or low-risk veterans like Koren Robinson or Anthony Hargrove, trusting conversations and cross-checks of players’ backgrounds to tell the whole story.
Thompson and the Packers appear to be good judges of character. During the past year when nine arrests were made involving Detroit Lions players, the Packers had zero.
“It’s hard to predict. Things can happen,” Thompson said. “We do like for our guys to be of a certain character and that sort of thing, and we try our best to make sure that’s the case. We look through a lot of different records and a lot of different things leading up to the draft. That’s been going on since last May.”
For Hyde, his October arrest was a speed bump during an otherwise quiet stay at Iowa. He never was suspended for the incident and started all 12 games his senior year although Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz revoked his captainship.
However, the incident led to questions from prospective NFL suitors. He said he has tried to be as up front and open as possible.
“I made a stupid mistake,” said Hyde, who said he still has a court date coming up. “They wanted to know every single detail. I let them know. It’s still ongoing. My court date is still coming up. I’m confident I can battle through it. I just learned a life lesson with the whole thing, especially dealing with the media. I learned a life lesson and now I’m just going to go from there.”
As for Barrington, the arrests and expired traffic tickets taught him a valuable lesson in that ignoring problems don’t make them go away.
Following his first arrest as a freshman, the hole only grew deeper socially and financially as time passed until he finally solicited help from attorneys to get the issues resolved.
Today, he’s proud to say his license is valid and looks to better himself in Green Bay.
The same goes for Johnson, whose six-year journey through three colleges landed him on the Packers’ roster after a strong pro day that put him on the NFL radar. He said he won’t let what happened at Eastern Kentucky define him.
“It was a learning experience. It was something that really grew me up,” Johnson said. “There were things that happened in my life that a lot of people didn’t have to go through. Some of the things I had to go through got me to where I am today so it was basically building blocks and it was the concrete steps you had to take to get to success, but also there’s going to be obstacles that would get in the way.”
— email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.