GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Kenny Clark is so young that he will have four NFL regular-season games to his credit before he’s even legally able to buy a beer. Kyler Fackrell is so old that he’ll be 25 after just his 10th pro football game.
Call them "The Young and the Relentless" of the Green Bay Packers’ 2016 draft class.
Clark was the youngest player picked in the first round. He won’t turn 21 until Oct. 4. Fackrell may have been the oldest in the entire draft. He’ll be 25 on Nov. 25.
Neither idea scared off Packers general manager Ted Thompson on draft weekend. He used the 27th overall pick to take Clark, the defensive tackle from UCLA, and a third-round pick on Fackrell, an outside linebacker from Utah State whose perseverance was as impressive as his performance in college.
“We take things like [age] into account,” Thompson said shortly after he picked Fackrell at No. 88 overall. “But not a lot. We took [Clark] yesterday who was like 19. But it wasn’t on purpose.”
As far as Fackrell is concerned, they’re both rookies and that’s all that matters. It’s just that he has a wife and a kid, while Clark only got around to getting his driver’s license late last year. The Packers’ other five draft picks are either 21 or 22.
“When you hear sometimes how young these guys are, I think Myles Jack is like 20, and it’s like, ‘Wow that’s crazy,’” Fackrell said during last weekend’s rookie orientation camp. “To be going into an environment like this at 20, it’s pretty crazy but once you get to know somebody, age doesn’t really [matter]. I don’t feel like I’m older than the other guys.”
For your records, Jack is 31 days older than Clark, who is 1,049 days younger than Fackrell.
Clark, however, had to grow up in a hurry. His father went to prison for second-degree murder in 2005, when Clark was 9 years old. But he’s used to being the youngest one in his class. He graduated high school at age 17 and did not turn 18 until midway through his freshman year of college.
“I had to mature quickly, and I have to do the same thing here,” Clark said last weekend. “Yeah, it’s two different games, but I think we have good, core veterans here. I think they get me on the right page, and I’m going to be working to get on the right page.
“We had a lot of older guys [at UCLA], so they did a good job of keeping me intact and keeping all the young guys on our team intact. I just went out there and worked hard every day and listened to coach.”
Two factors contributed to Fackrell’s late entry to the NFL. He took a year off after high school. He initially turned down his only Division I scholarship offer, from Utah State, because he was contemplating taking a Mormon mission trip. Instead, he spent the year painting houses before he called the coaches at Utah State to see if they still had a spot for him. They did, but only as a walk-on.
He eventually earned a scholarship and a starting job. His plan then was to turn pro after the 2014 season, but he blew out his knee in the season opener. He spent the rest of that season rehabbing and then played as a fifth-year senior in 2015. Along the way, he got married to Elizabeth, who gave birth to their daughter, Delaney, 17 months ago. His wife and daughter are living in Utah with Elizabeth’s mother, but Fackrell said they will make twice-a-month visits to Green Bay between now and the start of training camp in late July and eventually will move here full-time.
“They're my motivation for everything that I do,” he said. “I'm sure in training camp, when I don't feel good, when I don’t feel like getting up and going and working hard, it's going to be them in the back of my mind that's going to be making me go to work every day.”
Fackrell, who finally reached the NFL nearly six years after his high school graduation, said he wasn’t sure whether his age or his torn ACL impacted his draft standing. He said doctors put his knee through every possible test at the combine and in pre-draft visits, but he never had anyone ask about his age.
“I didn’t hear it being much of a point early on but as it got closer to the draft it seemed that was the knock on me a lot,” Fackrell said. “Whatever.”
Fackrell applied that “whatever” attitude about age to Clark, too.
“Honestly, I walked into the locker room and some of the veteran guys were around, and I thought he was one of those guys,” Fackrell said of Clark. “I mean, he’s a monster. Just look at him.”