GREEN BAY – With a brother who has bounced around the National Football League quite a bit since he came in as an undrafted free agent in 2008, David Bakhtiari knows how pro football works.
“He’s been cut 14 times,” Bakhtiari said of his older brother Eric. “I know the business side of it. He was cut right before the playoffs with the (San Francisco 49ers). That’s tough on a guy. I was able to grow up with it, talk with him, shed some light on it, be mature about it.”
That’s why, when the Colorado offensive tackle continued to drop past his draft evaluation during the third day of the 2013 NFL Draft Saturday – he’d been projected as a second- or third-round pick – he was a little discouraged, but not too worried about where he would end up.
“There was a little disappointment just because the word from around the team and around the league was that I was going to be slotted in a Day 2 kind of guy but that’s the way the draft goes,” Bakhtiari said after the Green Bay Packers took him in the fourth round Saturday with the 109th overall pick.
Even deciding to enter the draft was a thought out process that significantly involved his family, especially his parents Debbie and Karl. The half Persian, half Icelandic family also includes brother Andrew, who played football at the University of San Diego, and sister Danielle, who was a three-sport athlete in high school, and who David called the “best athlete” in the family at the NFL Scouting Combine.
With a close-knit family, it shouldn’t be a surprise that David asked his parents for approval before leaving Colorado early to play in the NFL.
“I still am the youngest of four in the family,” David said, “and my parents played a significant role.”
Eric was with David when he got the call that he was being drafted by the Packers, and David admitted it was a very emotional moment.
“We hugged and literally my eyes got teary-eyed,” Bakhtiari said. “We’re just super excited. He’s close to a couple of Green Bay Packers and he couldn’t be happier for me because we’ve worked so hard. We’ve worked together for so long ever since I was pretty much 17 years old we’ve been working together and just training so as much as it is for me and my success, we’ve done this together and we will just continue to work harder and for the rest of the years.”
Those Packers are none other than the players whom the team recently signed to long-term extensions – linebacker Clay Matthews and quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The California connection may have started with Eric, but has led to David working closely and training with Matthews.
“Clay is good friends with my older brother, and I was training with him for about I think two-and-a-half weeks before he got his new deal done and went back to Green Bay,” Bakhtiari said. “So I had a chance to meet him and hang out with him, and he’s a great guy. He’s fun, a competitor, and his work ethic is unparalleled.
“It’s awesome to be working out with that kind of guy. I’m just excited now to compete against him and learn what he does because, shoot, if I can learn from him and block him, I feel like I can pretty much block anyone, so that’s something I’m really excited to jump in and start working with.”
Bakhtiari will need to play to that high ability if he wants to beat left tackle Marshall Newhouse out for the starting left tackle position. Protecting Rodgers’ blindside, Bakhtiari will find himself matched-up against the opposing team’s best rusher.
Offensive line coach James Campen said Bakhtiari looks like he fits that position because of his “good feet,” “quickness,” and how explosive he is out of his stance.
The addition of Bakhtiari, and the Packers’ second fourth-round draft pick J.C. Tretter, could firm up the Packers’ offensive line and should create competition for the starting spots, something Campen believes is a positive development.
“Let's be honest, you've got two fourth-round picks back-to-back, certainly the competition barometer went up a heck of a lot,” Campen said. “So that's a good thing to have. And the men that are already in that room understand that, and they understood that before this draft certainly. Our competition just got better.”
The addition also has given the Packers a lot of versatility as well – something the team struggled with last season when Bryan Bulaga, Derek Sherrod and T.J. Lang missed time with injuries. Flexibility is something Campen and the Packers were looking for when selecting players to add to their offensive line.
“I think that David can play multiple positions,” Campen said. “He certainly is athletic enough to do so. As you know, he played left tackle. He has good feet. But I think he's very versatile. We'll be excited to get him in here and see where we're going to place him.”
Bakhtiari sees his flexibility as one of the strengths to his game.
“What I can bring to the table is I can help the team out with the versatility and the multiple positions,” Bakhtiari said. “I think it’s very comforting that you have a player – I consider myself a good player -- who can come in and compete yet you have the comfort in knowing I can play multiple positions and help out because it’s a long season and with a team that is an awesome organization and (has made) playoff and after playoffs, that’s a lot of games and injuries do occur. That’s not something that doesn’t happen. So to have the ability that I know that I can jump around from position to position can really help the team in the long run and I think that’s a huge benefit.”
But while Bakhtiari may claim his versatility to be his biggest strength, it’s clear the knowledge he has learned from his brother – and the rest of his family, has a lot to do with the position he is in now.
“The one thing you know is that you don’t know what’s going to happen, but I couldn’t be happier to be in an amazing organization on a great team and I am more determined than I already was and I’m just excited to get to Green Bay, get the playbook, study it and get ready to work and compete.”
Sarah Barshop covers the Packers for ESPNWisconsin.com. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/sarahbarshop.