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How Basketball Connects New Packers Julius Peppers and Demetri Goodson

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With tonight's NBA Draft on the horizon, we decided to take a look at the pair of Packers who parlayed experience playing college basketball into professional football careers.

Packers CB Demetri Goodson (with ball) drives during a college basketball game in 2011.
Packers CB Demetri Goodson (with ball) drives during a college basketball game in 2011.
Doug Pensinger

It seems in recent years that the tight end position has become the popular place for NFL teams to try out college basketball players. Names like Jimmy Graham, Antonio Gates, and Tony Gonzalez stick out as players who are or were dominant in the NFL after making the transition from the court.

They're not the only tight ends to go that route, though, as the Broncos' Julius Thomas and the Bears' Martellus Bennett both excelled in basketball during their careers. Still, playing tight end is hardly the only way a former basketball player can put those old skills to use on an NFL field.

Currently, the Green Bay Packers have two players who played basketball successfully at a collegiate level. Though both of these players are newcomers to the Packers this offseason and play on defense instead of tight end, they took very different routes to get to Green Bay.

Julius Peppers

At North Carolina, Peppers was a two-sport athlete for two seasons, playing defensive end for the Tar Heels' football team and forward for the basketball team. At 6'7", Peppers is the tallest player on this list. He was productive as a basketball player, too, averaging 7.1 points and 4 rebounds per game during the 2000-01 season and going 5.7/3.7 overall in his two years.

Of course, Peppers was always a football player first, earning his scholarship for his contributions on the gridiron and being drafted second overall in 2002 by the Carolina Panthers. He skipped the 2001-02 basketball season to focus on his preparation for the NFL Draft, and there was never any question as to which sport he would play professionally.

Demetri Goodson

Unlike Peppers, Goodson was focused squarely on basketball to begin his collegiate athletic career. Before playing cornerback at Baylor, Goodson was a point guard on the Gonzaga basketball team, which has become a perennial participant in the NCAA Tournament. Goodson even has a game-winner in the tournament to his credit, when he hit a layup in his freshman year of 2009 to beat Western Kentucky in the first round. As our Aron Yohannes noted a while back, Goodson is the only player to ever start an NCAA basketball tournament game as well as a BCS bowl game.