Green Bay — Soon after signing with the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent, Tavarus Dantzler received a phone call from another Bethune-Cookman graduate: Nick Collins.
The former Packers safety had hyped up Dantzler’s team before a game last season, but the two weren’t necessarily close.
Collins got Dantzler’s phone number from a friend in Green Bay and surprised the linebacker.
His message was straightforward.
“It’s a job now,” Dantzler recalled Collins’ telling him. “There’s no class. So just get in the playbook, learn, come here, and come with an attitude of wanting to learn. Ask questions.”
The expectations for this Bethune-Cookman star won’t be set nearly as high as that 2005 second-round pick who’d go on to star in Super Bowl XLV, but the Packers will throw Dantzler into the mix at inside linebacker. This 6-foot-2, 240 pounder promises to bring an angry, determined playing style.
“Linebacker is a physical position,” Dantzler said. “Either you have it or you don’t. I like to play with that anger, that chip on my shoulder. I just pride myself on things like that.”
Green Bay bypassed all inside linebackers through the first three rounds of the draft, taking Michigan’s Jake Ryan 129th overall. A three-year starter, Dantzler finished with 176 tackles (19 for loss) and six forced fumbles. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) is a tad different than the Big Ten, though Dantzler’s workout numbers certainly got Green Bay’s attention.
Dantzler ran the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds, posted a 35½-inch vertical leap and has 34½-inch arms.
By comparison, Clay Matthews ran a 4.67 with a 35½-inch vertical out of USC and has 32¼-inch arms.
For Dantzler, the key was a newfound focus midway through college. Defensive coordinator Charles “Yogi” Jones remembers an 18-year-old kid who could care less about his classwork.
He had the talent. He was a “happy-go-lucky guy,” Jones said.
Heading into his third year, Dantzler had a daughter and Jones saw a metamorphosis.
“He’s determined to be in position to provide for his daughter,” Jones said. “This is what he wants to do to make a living. He’s not going to be denied. He wants it. This is a kid that’s hungry….It changed his life. It changed his perspective on his education, on his day-to-day work ethic, it changed everything.