As a sort of ringleader of a band of Settlers and a cappella fans, Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari has developed into one of the more recognizable faces on his team, despite playing a position that is not traditionally known for glamour or attention.
Along with his teammates Corey Linsley and Don Barclay, Bakhtiari has joined up with Gillette at Wal-Mart for a series of videos called "Meet the Protectors," and has been speaking with members of the media this week to promote that campaign. Acme Packing Company spoke with the Packers tackle over the phone on Thursday morning to ask him about his NFL Career, the Scouting Combine, and some of his off-the-field exploits.
Rest assured - Bakhtiari still enjoys Settlers of Catan as much as ever, even as his schedule has filled up and made it tougher for him and his teammates to get games together. He also credits his off-the-field relationship with Josh Sitton for some of the success that the two have when playing together on the left side of the Packers' offensive line and discussed the challenge of transitioning into the Packers' starting left tackle role just a few short months after his own experience going through the Combine process.
See below for the full interview.
Acme Packing Company: You went through the Combine three years ago - what were your general impressions of the experience?
I remember it being long, long days. A lot different than what you see on TV because a lot more goes on behind the scenes, whether it's interviews, medical evaluations. That was definitely something I can recall. But beyond that, it was an amazing experience. It was a great time to kind of showcase your talents.
APC: Did you receive any strange, bizarre, or odd-ball questions in your team interviews?
I've gotten this question a few times. I wish I did, but my Combine experience was pretty vanilla, self-explanatory. Nothing, no really off-the-wall questions.
APC: Can you tell us anything about the interview you had with the Packers in Indianapolis?
We had a private interview so I'm going to stay away from that. I do remember meeting with them and I'm assuming it went well because they ended up drafting me.
APC: It must be a tough transition to go from playing college football to preparing for the Combine and the NFL Draft, and then jumping into rookie minicamp and OTAs. What was that transition like for you?
It's a very different transition. It's the first time a player - talking about these kids in the Combine right now - the first time they've ever been independent, by themselves, not affiliated with a certain team (or) collective unit. That's a little bit of a scary moment, to be honest. That's probably the toughest thing you have to deal with. The quickest transition is just going from trying to be an underwear champion, doing workouts and everything, you've got to kinda throw that aside and then get ready more for actual football drills. Okay, I look good in tights, that sounds good, but how well do you do when you put on your helmet and cleats and go out there and play?
APC: As a 4th-round pick, you might not have been expected to play on day one, but Bryan Bulaga's injury in training camp changed all that. How did you handle not only being a rookie, but being thrust into the starting role immediately?
It definitely was trial by fire ... the transition, it was tough. If you told me ‘David, you'll be the starting left tackle as soon as you get in the league" I'd say "Yeah, funny. Good joke." But it just happened. In my mind I know for every player there's going to be a certain moment in time that you're going to come to a crossroads, like all right, here's your moment, what are you going to do with it? So for me I think that was a little bit accelerated. They asked me to go out and protect the face of the franchise and basically shield him from all the fierce pass-rushers that are coming off the edge. Being a rookie, being 21 years old, that was definitely a little bit heavy on me. I really enjoyed the process. It was fun. I knew that here's my moment, I can either accept it and thrive off it or kind of get pushed aside. I chose the first option obviously and couldn't be happier with the situation and how it unfolded.
APC: Have any of your former teammates reached out to you for advice on the Combine and Draft process?
One of my roommates in college, he went through the whole draft process last year, Daniel Munyer, he had reached out to em and I gave him a bunch of advice. Still keep in close contact with him, he's fantastic. But this year, I think I'm starting to get too old, to be honest. I think there's three Colorado Buffaloes at the Combine, (Nelson Spruces, Stephane Nembot, and Dikembe Crowley. I think they were freshmen or sophomores when I left. Had a little bit of conversations with them but I don't think I spent enough time to forge a strong outstanding relationship (with them).
APC: Do you and your teammates still play Settlers of Catan regularly, or have you found other board games or pastimes to enjoy in your spare time?
No, I'm still settling. I wish we'd play more, I think I've scared off all my opponents. I'm a fierce competitor, and anyone who plays Settlers of Catan understands that it's a very competitive board game. Probably only one of the few that can bring out almost the worst in not only you but your closest friends and/or family members (laughs). We've kind of strayed away from that, I've done a couple other ventures.
(I'm) fortunate enough to work with Gillette at Wal-Mart now, they're able to put me in contact with you and bring me over to New York and do a bunch of interviews. We have a whole thing called Meet the Protectors that goes into detail and background of the commercial and videos that we've shot. It's been an amazing experience. I really can't believe that from the whole draft process, I'd be here today. Talking about Catan, being in a film, and now working with Gillette at Wal-Mart, it's pretty surreal and I'm just really grateful. And it's a great partnership. You talk about protecting and shielding your face with the new razors, it works really well with offensive linemen.
APC: With Gillette/Wal-Mart and your appearance in Pitch Perfect 2, do you find that you enjoy being in front of the camera?
It's different, being an offensive lineman we're generally the unsung hereoes. We tend to stick in the shadows and just get in our work and get out. The ability to have these different platforms such as being in Pitch Perfect 2 and working with Gillette at Wal-Mart, it's different. It's been an amazing experience, me and Corey (Linsley) have loved it. (This is) the first time I've ever been to New York, and I'm just grateful for the opportunity.
It's really cool that they're doing this, with their razor protecting and shielding the face, it's exactly what we do on the football field. Offensive linemen, that's what we do: shield and protect the quarterback. In Green Bay, that's such a premium with Aaron Rodgers. I couldn't think of a better match.
APC: What is your relationship like with left guard Josh Sitton, and how does that relationship and communication translate to success on the field?
Josh is definitely the leader of our offensive line, and he's also the oldest outstanding veteran. He's a great guy off the field, I'm happy that I'm able to work with him and I'm very fortunate I'm able to call him my friend. Realizing how close we are off the field really helps us on the field. Have our communication, have our nonverbal cues, but even to start thinking the same. When he notices something, I'm picking it up too. When he kind of looks at me and when people would be like "why are you staring at me, what's going on?" I completely 100% understand what he's thinking. And within the 10 seconds we have at the line of scrimmage because we do no-huddle, it comes in handy at times.
We thank David for taking the time out of his schedule to speak with APC, and we certainly wish him the best in his fourth NFL season and beyond. Check out his work with Gillette at Wal-Mart at MeetTheProtectors.com.