Packers the right fit for Ripkowski
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.”
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.