College Coach on Packers S Javon Bullard: ‘He Wants To Be the Best’

Few people know Packers rookie safety Javon Bullard better than Fran Brown, the new head coach at Syracuse.
Javon Bullard
Javon Bullard / Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – At the University of Georgia, Green Bay Packers second-round draft pick Javon Bullard was a standout in the slot in 2022 and a star at safety in 2023.

“Whatever needs to be done, Bull will do it,” Fran Brown, who was Georgia’s defensive backs coach the past two years before becoming the head coach at Syracuse, told Packer Central. “If you guys tell Bull he needs to become the long snapper, he’s going to have a really good, efficient snap time. That’s just who he is and what he’s about.”

Bullard was one of the heart-and-soul players for one of the best programs in the country. The Defensive MVP of the Bulldogs’ wins in the 2022 College Football Playoff semifinal and championship games, Bullard did the right things on and off the field.

“A faith-driven young man,” Brown said. “He’s a God-fearing man. He’s a great friend. He’s a good son. He’s a good brother. He’s a good father. His name means everything to him. That last name Bullard, that means a lot to him. So, that’s what I say about him. Just an honest, straightforward dude.”

And a team leader?

“Yeah, without a doubt,” Brown said. “That goes without saying.”

One reason why Bullard appealed to the Packers – with the 58th pick of the draft, only Tyler Nubin was off the board among this year’s safeties – is his versatility to play alongside versatile veteran Xavier McKinney, the team’s big free-agent addition.

“He can play the post, he can come down in the box, he can jump in the nickel,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said after drafting Bullard. “He can do a lot of things – and he has done a lot of things – in probably as close to a pro-style defense as there is. He’s versatile enough to do all the things we’re going to ask back there.”

That pro-style experience in the best conference in college football should make for a relatively easy transition, Brown said.

“It’s just going to be a how quick does he adjust to the speed (and) just understanding the movement,” he said. “He’s very intelligent. He’s going to be in the building in the morning. He’s going to leave at night. He’ll take care of his body. So, when it comes to all those things, he naturally prepares like a pro. Now, it would be just going out to practice and adjusting to the speed of the game.”

The move from slot to safety isn’t an easy one, though Bullard made it seem that way. At safety, there’s quite a bit of read and react. In the slot, there’s none of that. While Brown said Bullard would need to play with better eye discipline for his coverage assignments, his intelligence, athleticism and physicality allowed him to thrive in his new role.

“Just his intelligence and his football IQ,” Brown said. “He put the work in. Whatever you need him to do, he’s going to go and do it. We lost a guy, Chris Smith, who was an All-American, who was a really good player and plays for the Raiders, and I wanted to be able to fill that spot the same way. And Bullard can play corner, he can play safety, nickel.

“So, it was easy for Bullard to go back there and be able to do that because you also wanted to get Tykee Smith [a third-round pick by the Buccaneers] on the field because you were a better football team with both of those guys on the field. So, it was an easy transition for him because he had already been doing it a little bit the year before, and he got back there really simple and done it. So, naturally, going to safety was just second nature to him.”

The Packers entered the offseason with a glaring need at safety. McKinney was the first step toward addressing a major hole on the defense. Bullard was the next. The Packers no doubt hope they’ll be fixtures on the defense for the next four-plus seasons.

“He’ll be good. He’ll fit in. He’ll do whatever the team needs,” Brown said. “He’s a leader. He gets his hands on the ball. He likes contact. He’s going to want to learn. That’s going to be the good thing about him. He’s going to know what everyone else does. I think by you understanding and knowing what everyone around you is doing, it allows you to play your position a lot easier and a lot faster. It allows you to relax and just play football.”

Brown spent two years with the Cincinnati Bengals before embarking on his college coaching career. So, he knows what NFL defensive backs look like.

Now that Bullard has made it to the NFL, why is he going to be a hit?

“Because he won’t stop working. You know what I’m saying?” Brown said. “He’s going to keep working. He’s not going to stop. He’s not going to be comfortable with just being on the team. He wants to be the best.

“He’s not going to be comfortable with winning a few games. He comes from winning national championships. Javon Bullard lost two games his entire college career. He lost two games within two plays that could have changed those two games to being no losses at all. So, he’s a winner.”

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Bill Huber


Bill Huber, who has covered the Green Bay Packers since 2008, is the publisher of Packer Central, a Sports Illustrated channel. E-mail: History: Huber took over Packer Central in August 2019. Twitter: Background: Huber graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where he played on the football team, in 1995. He worked in newspapers in Reedsburg, Wisconsin Dells and Shawano before working at The Green Bay News-Chronicle and Green Bay Press-Gazette from 1998 through 2008. With The News-Chronicle, he won several awards for his commentaries and page design. In 2008, he took over as editor of Packer Report Magazine, which was founded by Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Nitschke, and In 2019, he took over the new Sports Illustrated site Packer Central, which he has grown into one of the largest sites in the Sports Illustrated Media Group.