With just one round of roster cuts remaining before the regular season, the Packers have some choices to make. Currently, the team has 80 men on the roster. That number needs to be shaved to 53 by 3 p.m. CST on Aug. 31. And while there’s a case to be made for several fringe guys, there couldn’t be one that fits the Green Bay Packers mantra better than undrafted free-agent Jack Heflin.
Heflin, a defensive lineman signed by Green Bay as a UFA earlier this year, has been impressive this preseason. In Week 1 against the Houston Texans, the meat-and-potatoes lineman played 40 snaps and made four tackles, three for a loss. Week 2 was even better, with Heflin recording four more tackles, two pressures, and one stop in 38 snaps against the New York Jets.
Those numbers put him among team leaders in tackles so far this preseason.
Still, who the hell is this guy?
If you’re a Northern Illinois fan, Iowa Hawkeye supporter, or grew up in Prophetstown, Ill. (pop. 2,062), you may know the name. Or if you’ve read the plethora of recent articles put out on the underdog talent, you’ve got a grasp of him. Yet maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance that the entire NFL will know his name in years to come. And if they do, he’s pretty darn easy to cheer for.
For starters, Heflin is the second NFL player to hail from the quaint town of Prophetstown. The other? Wisconsin Badgers coaching legend Bret Bielema.
Growing up, Heflin showed cattle and played a variety of sports, including football. He didn’t have Division 1 scholarship offers out of high school, but he walked on with the Northern Illinois Huskies, where he managed 38 solo tackles and 70 total tackles in three seasons from 2017-19. Following his dominance in the MAC, Heflin took his talents to Iowa City, where he played eight games for the Hawkeyes last year, making 21 total tackles and forcing a fumble.
Heflin isn’t massive and hasn’t been the fastest player in his role to grace the planet, yet strong numbers and a will to improve earned him a shot at playing professional football. But the 6’3”, 304 lbs. lineman has his work cut out for him. Green Bay’s line will almost certainly consist of Kenny Clark, Kingsley Keke, T.J. Slaton, and Dean Lowry. That leaves one spot for Heflin to compete for, against assumed-lock Tyler Lancaster.
A fellow Illinois native, Lancaster and Heflin aren’t that different. Both are old-school linemen who make their name by duking it out in the trenches. Lancaster has a few years on Heflin, spending the last three seasons with the Pack. In that time, he’s played in 43 games (18 starts) while recording 44 solo tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Numbers-wise, both men line up pretty evenly, minus Heflin’s lack of service time in the NFL.
But no matter what, it’s hard not to cheer for the guy. The Packers have made a name for themselves by developing talent that has slipped through the cracks of the professional football world. Just look at names like Ryan Grant, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, and John Kuhn. Those guys all entered the Packers organization as undrafted free agents and left as franchise staples.
Heflin has excellent at every level, whether it be high school, MACtion, or Big Ten football. What we’ve seen so far in preseason football has followed that same trend. It’s unlikely that he would be a breakout star in the next year or two, but it’s clear the Heflin deserves consideration at the NFL level. And how cool would it be for the Midwest kid to get his shot with arguably the most blue-collar franchise in all of football?