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Packers Send Fastest Player Back to Defense

Rico Gafford, who intercepted six passes in two seasons at Wyoming, signed with the Packers as a receiver in January but has moved back to cornerback.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Rico Gafford has a new number but an old position.

The Green Bay Packers have switched Gafford from receiver to cornerback and given him jersey No. 37.

The new position isn’t new at all.

Gafford played his final two seasons of college football at Wyoming, where he intercepted two passes as a junior in 2016 and four passes as a senior in 2017 to earn all-Mountain West Conference honors.

At Wyoming’s pro day in 2018 – quarterback Josh Allen was the headliner – Gafford ran his 40-yard dash in 4.22 seconds. It was one-tenth of a second faster than any other cornerback at that year’s Scouting Combine.

“I heard from a few scouts that they had me at 4.24, 4.25, 4.27, stuff like that,” Gafford said afterward. “It felt good to me. I came in wanting the scouts to have nothing less than a 4.35, so to have them leave the day with 4.2 on all their clocks and everything like that, that’s a game changer for me. So, hopefully, come draft time, my name’s called.”

It was not. Gafford went undrafted and spent his rookie training camp with the Tennessee Titans, where coach Matt LaFleur was offensive coordinator. He failed to make the roster, signed with the Oakland Raiders and made the change to offense. He made his first career reception late in the 2019 season, a 49-yard touchdown pass against the Titans.

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“The last two years I was in and out of roles, whether it was offense or defense,” Gafford said while with the Raiders. “So, going into this offseason, I knew that I was going to be playing wide receiver 100 percent, and that in order for me to become a guy that is playing on Sundays, I would have to completely dedicate myself to working on my craft and getting better as a receiver.”

In 2021, he spent training camp with the Cardinals and Bills. He worked out for the Packers after the season and signed a futures contract.

For the Packers, the position switch makes sense from a roster perspective. Since signing Gafford in January, they added veteran Sammy Watkins and drafted three other receivers. Meanwhile, the Packers didn’t draft a cornerback and the only veteran they added was Keisean Nixon, who played in Snoop Dogg's youth league.

While at Dowling Catholic Central High School in West Des Moines, Iowa, he set the Iowa State Meet record in the 100-meter dash. He spent his first couple years after high school at Iowa Western College in hopes of turning his big-time speed into a big NFL opportunity.

"That's the main reason I do this," he told during his senior year. "I've given my whole life to this, so it'll hurt me not to get there, and I just work every day and I pray and do everything I can to have to get there."

Along with his father and a business partner, Gafford opened a restaurant in his hometown of Des Moines called Rico’s. It’s not just his name but his heart and soul. He’s washed dishes and mixed drinks. His memorabilia hang on the walls. The menu features some of his favorite dishes.

“My name is literally on the front door,” he told The Wyoming News. “I’m part owner. It’s something that I took to heart.”

“I wanted it to be a place where people could come in and meet me personally.”