Pack­ers the right fit for Rip­kowski

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - SPORTS - Ed God­frey egod­frey@ ok­la­homan.com

Aaron Rip­kowski landed with the right NFL team.

For a hard-nosed full­back named Rip­kowski, what could be bet­ter than play­ing for the Green Bay Pack­ers and on the frozen tun­dra of Lam­beau Field, in front of “Pol­ish Power” chant­ing fans.

Wis­con­sin and the Green Bay-Mil­wau­kee area is home to one of the largest pop­u­la­tions of Pol­ish-Amer­i­cans in the coun­try, and those Packer fans de­light in hav­ing a full­back named Rip­kowski.

“I wouldn’t say I am a fan fa­vorite by any means, but they latch onto the name. They like the name be­cause it rings home to a bunch of peo­ple in the re­gion,” said the third-year pro from Ok­la­homa. “But I’m not just Pol­ish. I like to think of my­self as a mutt. I’m mixed with a lot of dif­fer­ent back­grounds, but they sure do love the last name around here.”

Rip­kowski was se­lected in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL draft, one of only five full­backs picked in the en­tire draft. He played mostly on spe­cial teams his rookie year, but he did do the “Lam­beau Leap” for the first time in a pre­sea­son game.

“The play that I ac­tu­ally scored on got called back,” Rip­kowski said in a phone in­ter­view with The Ok­la­homan last week. “We had some kind of penalty go­ing on. I missed out on that, but it was still

ex­cit­ing to get on the wall and ac­tu­ally make a jump in my first try. I was lit­tle ner­vous. I wasn’t sure if I could get off high enough to make it a clean jump, but it went well.

“Pretty much your first time scor­ing, you got to do it. Af­ter that, if it’s a ma­jor score, or you need to get the fans go­ing or some­thing of that sort, you go straight to it.”

Rip­kowski ap­peared in all 16 games for the Pack­ers last sea­son, start­ing half of them. He rushed for 150 yards and scored two touch­downs on 34 car­ries while hav­ing nine re­cep­tions for 46 yards and a touch­down, one of only two Pack­ers to score both rush­ing and re­ceiv­ing last sea­son.

He was named a Pro Bowl al­ter­nate for do­ing much of the same grunt work for the Pack­ers that he did while play­ing for the Soon­ers when he was paving the way to the end zone for Sa­maje Per­ine and the OU of­fense.

“There are lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties,” Rip­kowski said of his role with the Pack­ers and Soon­ers. “Do­ing a lit­tle bit more in dif­fer­ent ar­eas, but as far as the block­ing and the block­ing schemes, it’s pretty sim­i­lar. There are lit­tle tweaks here and there, but that’s about it.”

Green Bay was on Rip­kowski’s wish list be­fore the 2015 NFL Draft be­cause of the way the Pack­ers use their full­back in the of­fense.

“Es­pe­cially as a full­back, you think the Pack­ers is an of­fense and team you can stick around on and play a long time,” Rip­kowski said. “Not ev­ery team car­ries one, but this team car­ries one and the full­back takes a big re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

Rip­kowski doesn’t care if his num­ber gets called to carry the ball more this sea­son.

“I am just here to help them move the ball any­way they can, if that’s block­ing or catch­ing the ball or run­ning,” he said.

Rip­kowski said the 2017 Pack­ers are a team that not only fits his style of play but his per­son­al­ity as well.

“First and fore­most, I am around a group of guys who want to work to win, and it’s kind of rubbed off on me and I’m try­ing to do the same thing and just fall in line,” he said.

“They are bunch of guys who want to put their nose to the grind and re­ally just hus­tle around. It’s not a fancy team as far as flashy guys, just a bunch of work­horses and that’s who I like be­ing around, so I would say it’s a good fit for me.”

Af­ter an open­ing week win over Seat­tle, the Pack­ers play at At­lanta on Sun­day night in a re­match of last year’s NFC cham­pi­onship game won by the Fal­cons, 44-21.

Green Bay doesn’t get drubbed like that very of­ten, but Rip­kowski said the Pack­ers are not mo­ti­vated by re­venge this week.

“We got mo­ti­va­tion ev­ery week,” he said. “Ev­ery week in the NFL it’s hard to win. We don’t carry too much of a grudge. If we need to draw on that for en­ergy, we will, but don’t put any ex­tra pres­sure on your­self. We are just go­ing to show up and try to get to 2-0.”

Rip­kowski said he is grate­ful that former Ok­la­homa foot­ball coach Bob Stoops be­lieved in him when oth­ers didn’t.

“I am glad he gave me an op­por­tu­nity,” Rip­kowski said. “I didn’t have too many of­fers or any­body even look­ing my way com­ing out (of high school), but they saw some­thing in me. They took a chance. It’s some­thing I will cher­ish for­ever.”

[AP PHOTO]

Former OU full­back Aaron Rip­kowski, shown here in Jan­uary’s NFL di­vi­sional play­off win over the Dal­las Cow­boys, has be­come an im­por­tant cog in Green Bay’s of­fense.

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