GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Devonte Wyatt draws the line at roommates. He’s not sharing a place with fellow Green Bay Packers' rookie Quay Walker.
“We’re not staying together,” Wyatt said with a smile. “I want my own house. He probably feels the same.”
Short of that, it sounds like they couldn’t be any happier that their journey to the NFL has them together again.
After all, they’ve shared just about everything else -- from their success at the University of Georgia to their unlikely arrival in the same NFL city in the same round of the same draft.
So forgive them if they took a moment during last weekend’s rookie minicamp to reflect. On their first day at Lambeau Field, they sat in the team cafeteria with second-year cornerback Eric Stokes -- another former Georgia Bulldog who was the Packers' 2021 first-round pick.
“We were just talking, man," Wyatt said, "talking about how amazing it is how we’re all on the same team, how we’re all at the next level [and] how far we came."
The Packers picked Walker, the versatile inside linebacker, at No. 22 overall. Six picks later, they grabbed Wyatt, the quick-footed defensive tackle who turned heads with his 40-yard dash at the combine.
Not that the transition to the NFL is ever easy, but it could be smoother for them doing it together.
“I’m sure it’ll be comfortable for those two guys,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “Anytime you go into a new situation with a bunch of unknowns, and there is a familiar face there, I think that lends some comfort to those two guys. But you know, I do think we have a pretty impressive locker room, a lot of great veterans, and I think they’ll all take these guys under their wing.”
Walker: From hoops to the gridiron
Football was not the first love for the 6-foot-4, 241 pound Walker.
All he thought about when he arrived at Crisp County (Georgia) High School was basketball. That was until the football coach saw him throwing down dunks in the gym.
“I wasn’t a football player at all,” Walker recalled. “He came up to me and just said something that stuck with me: ‘You’re 6-3, 6-4 and you’re playing power forward in basketball. That’s the normal height of a Division I point guard.' He was like, '6-3, 6-4 is big in football, so try football out.' I listened to him.”
Walker said he had tried football once before, in middle school.
“I didn’t like it at all,” he said.
It was different the second time around. He found a home at linebacker and, to hear him tell it, the scholarship offers poured in almost immediately.
“Listening to him was the best thing I could have ever did,” Walker said.
His instant stardom in high school didn’t repeat itself when he got to the SEC powerhouse. Three seasons in, he had started two games.
“It humbled me a whole lot,” he said.
“To be honest with you, I wanted to leave,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and say I didn’t want to leave, but I really did. But I just trusted it out. Everybody’s plan is going to be different. Everybody’s not going to have an easy road, or however you want to put it. So I just kept my head down and kept working.”
He credited the coaches at Georgia, specifically linebackers coach Glenn Schumann, for convincing him to stay.
“They were like, ‘Just try to fight it on out and just see where we go from there,’” Walker said. “I’m glad they did that. Because of how things turned out my senior year, winning the national championship for my home team, [home] state, it don’t get no better than that.”
He capped his senior year with eight tackles and six quarterback pressures in the championship against Alabama. It vaulted him up the draft boards and right to the Packers in the first round -- further than basketball ever would have taken him.
“Not too far,” Walked answered, when asked where he would’ve ended up as basketball player. “Probably up the road. I’d say Albany State, like 15, 20, 25 minutes up the road from me. Probably as far as I would’ve went.”
Wyatt: The road to becoming to elite
The Walker-Wyatt pairing with the Packers might never had happened if Wyatt followed through on entering the NFL draft after the 2020 season.
But Georgia coach Kirby Smart talked him into staying for another year.
“He just kept it real with me," Wyatt said. "Like he said no teams see me as an elite defensive tackle. Deep down, I knew I was that elite defensive tackle, so that's what made me come back.”
He also had a February 2020 arrest on misdemeanor charges of family violence, trespassing and property damage -- all of which were later dropped.
According to a UGA Police Department incident report obtained by ESPN, a person called 911 on Friday, Feb. 21 and told police that a man and woman were arguing outside of a dormitory.
"During the argument, [the woman] left Wyatt's Room in Vandiver Hall and returned her dorm in McWhorter Hall," the incident report said. "Wyatt followed behind and kicked her exterior apartment door multiple times from the hallway, damaging the door and forcing it open."
A UGA police officer wrote in the report that "neither party indicated they were in fear of their safety."
According to the Athens Banner-Herald, Clarke County's solicitor general told the paper the case was dismissed after "reviewing the evidence and consulting with the alleged victim."
“I definitely had moments in my career [when] it was hard, like with the off-the-field issues I had,” Walker said. “I definitely made a mistake. I definitely learned from my mistakes.”
On the field, Wyatt ballooned up to 330 pounds as a junior. He said he played at between 300-305 in 2021, allowing him to show off his athletic ability (see his 4.77 40-yard dash at the combine, beating even his Georgia defensive line mate Jordan Davis, the 13th pick of the draft).
His college career began with humble beginnings. He had to go the junior college route at Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College before landing in Athens, Georgia, where he and Walker formed their bond.
“Four years ago, we [were] like, 'We want to go first round. We want to do this. We want to play together,'” Wyatt said. “Doing that now is just a dream come true.”
As long as they have their separate living spaces, that is.