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Relentless Gary Driven by Family, Powered by Pursuit of Ring

On his renowned work ethic, Rashan Gary said: “If you talk about wanting to be great or wanting to be the best, there’s certain things you’ve got to do.”
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – In the courtroom, a closing act of a trial is the resting of the defense. Green Bay Packers standout Rashan Gary’s pursuit of excellence on defense never rests.

As you read this, Gary is probably working out. Or maybe he’s working on pass-rush drills. Or watching film.

To say the relentless fourth-year outside linebacker never rests would be an overstatement. Everyone has to chill out at some point in their day. Gary just chills less than most. While many of the players in the locker room during the final week of organized team activities said they’d take a week or so to catch their breath before diving back into preparation for training camp and the grueling regular season that’s to come, Gary didn’t have a week to waste.

“Oh, no, I’m back to work. Whenever I leave here, Thursday, I’ll be back to work on Monday,” Gary said. “So, just pushing myself to become the better player I need and know I can be and be a good player for this team and be the player that can get us over the hump, go to the Super Bowl.”

Whatever Gary’s doing, it’s working. The 12th pick of the 2019 draft, Gary went from two sacks and three quarterback hits as a rookie to five sacks and 11 quarterback hits in 2020 to 9.5 sacks and 28 quarterback hits in 2021. According to the official league stats, Gary finished seventh in the NFL in quarterback hits last year. According to Pro Football Focus, Gary finished third in the NFL (and second among edge rushers) with 86 total pressures.

Just don’t tell Gary he’s on his way to being a star.

“Not yet,” he said.

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Becoming a star – or at least viewed as one by media and fans or winning the Pro Bowl popularity vote – will require turning more of those pressures into sacks. That’s a focus, to be sure, but that’s not all that’s driving him.

“I want to be the best at my position,” Gary said. “When you say things like that, that’s where I want to be is be able to be top of the categories and things. But my No. 1 thing is bringing a ring back. So, I’m not really into all that, how people are looking at me. I’m into whatever I’ve got to do for this team so we can bring back the ring.”

With a shot at getting that ring last year as the NFC’s No. 1 seed, Gary was crushed by the playoff loss to San Francisco. He figures he’s watched the game more than 20 times. Not that he needed additional motivation, but the loss – his dominant performance notwithstanding – provided it. That was one reason why he attended the final week of OTAs, even while so many of his teammates got a jump-start on their vacations.

With a massive second contract on the horizon and a focus on bigger things for himself and a potential-packed defense, don’t expect Gary to slack off. That’s just not in his DNA.

“If you talk about wanting to be great or wanting to be the best, there’s certain things you’ve got to do,” he said. “It’s a lifestyle. You can’t just say, ‘Oh, I want to be good,’ and then don’t put in the work. That’s why hard work pays off and I put in the work.”

Gary’s work ethic starts at home with his mom, Jennifer, and his sister, Nafeesa, who is 10 years older than Gary. When he was the top recruit in the nation coming out of Plainfield, N.J., Gary got his first tattoo. It was his mom’s name, in cursive, on his left arm. The faces of mom and sister are also on Gary’s left arm, as is the phrase “My sister’s keeper.”

They are the inspiration behind his renowned work ethic.

“I come from a single-parent home,” Gary said. “My mom and sister, they both raised me. Seeing my mom work multiple jobs, seeing my sister work multiple jobs to feed me. I’m just so thankful the organization just gave me a chance because all I wanted to do was provide for them. I got that opportunity, that chance. That’s what I wanted.”

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