Packers' Rashan Gary taking on leadership role in Year 4: 'I'm just naturally doing what I normally do'

When pass rusher Rashan Gary entered the league as the Green Bay Packers' No. 12 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, he did so as an athletically gifted but raw prospect.

After starting zero games in his rookie season and four in his second, Gary emerged as Green Bay's biggest threat to the quarterback in 2021 with 9.5 sacks. He molded himself into an emerging star through a relentless quest for knowledge and betterment, leaning on players like Preston Smith and now-former teammate Za'Darius Smith. And he's still molding -- only now it's the minds of younger teammates who look up to him.

"It's kinda crazy," Gary said, via Matt Schneidman of The Athletic. "I had great examples in front of me, so when rookies ask me questions -- like just now I was having a talk with 55, 'J.J.' (Enagbare), and he was asking about practice and what he can do to show his talents and everything. I'm like, 'Do everything that you've been doing, man. You're hungry for knowledge and you're getting better day by day. You're not making the same mistake.' So, you know, I'm just naturally doing what I normally do from when I was at Michigan to now. I'm just fully comfortable now."

Working alongside Preston Smith as the Packers' top two edge options, Gary's growing impact is allowing the Packers to install a trio of leadership at every level of the defense -- all of whom are 26 or younger.

With defensive tackle Kenny Clark manning the middle of the line and shutdown corner Jaire Alexander returning from injury to guide an ascending secondary, that leaves Gary, the youngest of the three at just 24, to influence the linebackers and edge rushers.

"Rashan is a tone-setter, and I think you guys see that each and every day," coach Matt LaFleur said. "He's got the capability of wrecking practice. He probably would have had four sacks (Thursday). He's just relentless. He plays with a great motor and energy, and I think it rubs off on everybody. He makes everybody around him better."

The Packers will be counting on Gary to rub off on a new crop of younger defenders in 2022, especially while the other side of the ball adjusts to life without Davante Adams during the early stages of the season.

If he attacks his new mentor role like he has everything else, Gary could find himself leading the charge toward another year of playoff football in Lambeau.

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