INDIANAPOLIS --With flowing light-colored hair and a reputation as a high-motor pass rusher, Arizona defensive end Brooks Reed has drawn comparisons to current Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.
Reed has come to accept the comparison, but notes that he is still learning to play the 3-4 outside linebacker position where Matthews earned the 2010 NFC Defensive Player of the Year award.
"I know a lot of guys compare me to him because of the hair or whatever, but he's a great athlete," Reed said on Saturday. "[But] he played in a system [at USC] where he was a stand-up linebacker, where I'm trying to make that transition right now. So I think it's going to take me a little more time to understand that position, but I have the athletic ability to do that."
At 6-foot-2 1/2 and 263 pounds, Reed said he did not play as a "stand-up linebacker" until the final two games of his college career.
"Going into it, we had a pretty simple system," Reed said. "I had my hand down and we didn't really do much except rush the quarterback."
Over the past several months, Reed said he has worked with Athletes' Performance trainer and former Patriots linebacker Barry Gardner to learn the nuances of the 3-4 outside linebacker position.
"He kind of opened my eyes to the whole scheme of the things, with the 4-3 and the 3-4, putting that on the field and adding technique along with it," Reed said of Gardner's coaching. "It was kind of a building process with it but I think I've come a long way."
Reed said that teams are "80-to-20" looking at him as a 3-4 outside linebacker as opposed to a 4-3 defensive end. Realizing this, Reed said he made a point to take part in linebacker drills in last month's Senior Bowl.
"I went down there with a mission to take myself out of the shadows. I didn't want to go down there and just go through it all," Reed said. "I wanted to compete and show that I do have athletic ability and that I can play stand-up linebacker."
Reed isn't the first former Wildcat to make the transition. Former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi was also a defensive end at Arizona before transitioning to linebacker in the Patriots' defense.
"I wish I could meet him," Reed said of Bruschi. "I've never talked to him and never been able to shake his hand."
More recent Arizona Wildcat and current Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was a teammate of Reed for three seasons.
"He's kind of hard to get a hold of," Reed joked. "He's gone big-time now."
In the end, Reed may be trying to avoid comparisons to Matthews, but it hasn't stopped him from modeling his playing style after the two-time Pro Bowler.
"I've been watching him a lot this year," Reed said of Matthews. "I just like how relentless he is. He's a dependable player who can get to the quarterback at the end of the game."