GREEN BAY, Wis. — Rico Gafford has a new number but an old position.
The Green Bay Packers upgraded Gafford from receiver to cornerback and gave him the No. 37 jersey.
The new position is not new at all.
Gafford played his last two seasons of college football at Wyoming, where he intercepted two passes as a junior in 2016 and four passes as a senior in 2017 to earn All Mountain West Conference honors.
On Wyoming’s 2018 pro day — quarterback Josh Allen was the headliner — Gafford ran his 40-yard sprint in 4.22 seconds. It was a tenth of a second faster than any other cornerback at the Scouting Combine that year.
“I heard from a few scouts that they got me at 4.24, 4.25, 4.27, stuff like that,” Gafford said afterwards. “It made me feel good. I came in wanting scouts to have nothing less than a 4.35 so having them go the day with 4.2 on all their clocks and stuff like that is a game-changer for Me. So hopefully come draft time, my name is called.
It was not. Gafford was undrafted and spent his rookie training camp with the Tennessee Titans, where coach Matt LaFleur was the offensive coordinator. He failed to make the roster, signed with the Oakland Raiders and switched offenses. He made his first career reception at the end of the 2019 season, a 49-yard touchdown pass against the Titans.
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“The last two years I was in and out of roles, whether it was on offense or defense,” Gafford said while with the Raiders. “So going into this offseason, I knew that I was going to play 100% wide receiver, and that in order for me to become a guy who plays on Sundays, I would have to focus entirely on working on my craft and getting better. improve as a receiver.
In 2021, he spent training camp with the Cardinals and the Bills. He worked for the Packers after the season and signed a term contract.
For the Packers, the change in position makes sense from a roster perspective. Since signing Gafford in January, they’ve added veteran Sammy Watkins and drafted three more receivers. During that time, the Packers didn’t draft a cornerback and the only veteran they added was Keisean Nixon, who played in Snoop Dogg’s youth league.
While at Dowling Catholic Central High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, he set the Iowa State Meet record in the 100 meters. He spent his first two years after high school at Iowa Western College hoping to turn his high gear into a big opportunity in the NFL.
“That’s the main reason I’m doing this,” he told GoReivers.com in his senior year. “I’ve given my whole life to this, so it will hurt me not to make it, and I just work every day and pray and do whatever I can to make it happen.”
Along with his father and a business partner, Gafford opened a restaurant in his hometown of Des Moines called Rico’s. It’s not just his name but his heart and soul. He washed dishes and mixed drinks. His memories hang on the walls. The menu features some of his favorite dishes.
“My name is literally on the front door,” he told the Wyoming News. “I am a co-owner. It’s something that I took to heart. »
“I wanted it to be a place where people could come in and meet me personally.”