Michael Cohen and Ryan Wood discuss a fight at Packers practice on Thursday and the outlook at outside linebacker. USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
GREEN BAY - Green shirts line Kalif Phillips’ closets, and for good reason.
The undrafted free-agent running back wore the color at Kannapolis Middle School in Kannapolis, N.C. He wore it at A.L. Brown High School, too, as well as at North Carolina-Charlotte in college. So when asked if the color had something to do with his signing with the Green Bay Packers, he laughed.
Green Bay was all about opportunity.
“Everybody’s got a chance,” Phillips said after the Packers' second open organized team activities session. “It’s just on whoever puts the most out there and proves themselves.”
Former Central Florida and Virginia Union running back William Stanback knows a little bit about said proof.
Stanback, Green Bay’s other undrafted free-agent running back, was dismissed from the UCF football team in 2015 after a season in which he earned all-American Athletic Conference honors with 697 yards rushing and 10 rushing touchdowns. ESPN reported that Stanback had failed multiple marijuana tests.
The dismissal led Stanback to Virginia Union, where he rushed for 1,299 yards and 15 touchdowns. Stanback said he believes he redeemed himself.
“I misbehaved, I didn’t follow directions, didn’t follow rules, team policy and I take all of the blame,” Stanback said. “I understand where I am now and I have a second chance, so I’m not going to mess that up.”
The two undrafted running backs are competing in a crowded backfield picture with fourth-round pick Jamaal Williams (who signed his contract Thursday), fifth-round pick Aaron Jones and seventh-round pick Devante Mays for a roster spot behind starter Ty Montgomery.
Both Phillips and Stanback have understood the difficulty the competition poses from the day they signed, and it drives them.
“I’m going to come to work every day, wake up early at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m., eat breakfast, work out and prepare myself for each meeting,” Stanback said, “even if it’s special teams.”
Stanback has dreamed of playing in the NFL since he was 8 and knows he still has much to learn about blocking and pass protection, something not stressed in college.
Phillips, who set single-season records at Charlotte for touchdowns (20 in 2014) and rushing yards (1,436 in 2014), knows having to learn the playbook is something that will prepare him for the future.
A future, he hopes, that will feature plenty of green.
“There’s a whole lot of pride that comes from playing here,” Phillips said. “Green sticks on me, so I might as well keep it going."