A young Justin Timberlake looks identical to Ruth from the Netflix series Ozark. That is how Ty Summers and I started our conversation. Summers talked on how quarantine has given him more time on his hands than usual. He has been spending his time hanging out with his wife, raising their new fur baby, and working out. The working out shows. It crossed my mind during the interview that Summers contains more muscle in his shoulders than I do in my entire body. He is strong and ready for this upcoming season.
After talking about Ozarks and quarantine life, we talked more about his football journey and what he expects to do next year with the Packers.
Summers is from San Antonio, Texas, and has a long history in the sport of football. During his high school days, Summers played in front of over 11,000 fans. High school football in Texas is just something different. Playing in front of large crowds in high school helped as he transitioned into college where he played for TCU for all four years. He made an immediate impact from the first year he joined the team. During his freshman year he was honored with Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week as well as Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week. He continued his strong play into his sophomore and junior season where he played in every game with 10 and nine starts respectively.
Summers battled through injury his senior year at TCU missing four games, but was the captain for each of the seven games he played in. He showed his willingness to do whatever was best for the team by playing both defensive end and inside linebacker for the Frogs that season.
When asked about his preference for linebacker or defensive end Summers replied, “Linebacker is more of my position. The defensive end thing was kind of an experiment. Obviously I’m going to do what is best for the team. I’m not as natural at that (defensive end) as I am at linebacker.”
Summers’ versatility, leadership and athletic ability had him projected as a fifth round draft pick in 2019. He ended up falling into the seventh round where the Packers grabbed him with the 12th pick.
The Packers received one talented athlete late in the draft. Summers ran a 4.51 40 yard dash at the combine, which was faster than Davante Adams (4.56), Jamaal Williams (4.59), Devin Funchess (4.70) and Aaron Jones (4.56). He has the speed to chase down running backs, wide receivers and destroy plays in the backfield. When I mentioned to him that he is faster than some receivers on the Packers, Summers laughed and said, “Better hope I’m not running that Tampa coverage on them.” Don’t let his laugh fool you, the speed he brings to the linebacking corp is no joke.
Not only does Summers bring speed, but he is strong and can brutalize offensive players. His 6”1, 241 pound frame is close to former Packer Blake Martinez, who is 6”2, 237 pounds. He is not just size. During his combine he managed to bench press 225 pounds 27 times. That was enough to tie for third among all linebackers at the combine. The strength and speed is there, but he showed he can perform on the field as well.
Summers arrived at his first preseason game against the Texans ready to make an impact, and he did just that. He racked up nine tackles in his debut with the green and gold. He carried that momentum into Baltimore the next week where he managed four tackles, but uncharacteristically missed a few as well.
In the third quarter against Baltimore, he had three plays in one drive that he managed to get into the backfield, but was just a split second too late. I asked Summers if the speed of the NFL was something he needed to adjust to, and his answer surprised me:
“Honestly, I came in with a lot more confidence than I envisioned. When training camp came around, I was in this mindset that I wasn’t going to get blocked. I did really well in that first preseason game against the Texans and carried that momentum into Baltimore. That Baltimore game specifically, I missed a tackle that I would make 99% of the time and I was like ‘What the heck.’ I was like ‘yeah whatever that happens.’ Then I missed another one and started to get into my head. I started hesitating and missed a stupid amount of tackles that game. All because I got into my own head. Would I say the speed is way different? I didn’t play against the Deshaun Watsons and Lamar Jacksons. I would say that speed would be a little bit faster than I’m used to, but felt like college.”
Summers possesses enough speed to translate into the NFL game, but he found that he also needs to be mentally ready for the ups and downs of the NFL. He proved to be mentally strong when he brushed off the Baltimore game and traveled to Canada to face the Oakland Raiders and had another nine tackle performance. He then finished the preseason off at Lambeau with four tackles, a 74-yard pick six and his first Lambeau leap.
Bad plays, games and moments will happen, but the best players learn from them and move on. That is exactly what Summers did.
Heading into next season, the Packers have a bit of a question mark at inside linebacker. With Blake Martinez (played 99% of defensive snaps) heading to the Giants and BJ Goodson (played 24% of defensive snaps) heading to Cleveland, the Packers need two players to fill those roles. The Packers did bring Christian Kirksey in to be a veteran presence at ILB, but he has only played nine games in the last two seasons. The Packers also have third year linebacker Oren Burks, who missed the start of last season with an injury and Curtis Bolton, who is recovering from a torn ACL.
When asked if he saw this as his opportunity to step up and claim one of the top spots, this is what he had to say:
“Yeah definitely. I mean my mindset right now is it is an open competition. I’m going to go in there and compete for the job. And in the end if they decide that Christian Kirskey, Oren Burks, or Curtis Bolton is the guy, then I’m going to do whatever my role is. I’m going to be the best at it. But 100% I’m going for that spot.”
I asked Summers what he believes is his best characteristic that he would bring to that starting position. He said:
“My best characteristic that I bring is communication. I am a big communicator out there. When it comes to making the call in the huddle, talking to the safety to know the coverage, talking to the defensive line, and communicating nonstop. This is how it was at TCU, whenever I knew the defense and was really in it, I was talking all the way until the ball was snapped. Just making sure everyone is on the same page. I would also say my speed. Whether it is chasing someone down or coverage, speed is definitely something I bring.”
Communication will be huge on the defense this season. Martinez has been the mike linebacker for the past three seasons, and was the voice of the huddle. The Packers will need another strong communicator to fill that role, and Summers could be that guy.
That is exactly what you want to hear from a second year player. He is hungry and ready to step up for the defense. He mentioned how him and his wife were planning on heading to Green Bay early on April 15th, but with the coronavirus, they need to play it safe and wait. He said he is “getting antsy” and is “itching” to get back to Green Bay and play football.
The Packers filled a lot of holes last season with the Smith Bros leading the pass rush, Adrian Amos helping out the secondary and Billy Turner solidifying the offensive line. However, every new offseason brings new challenges and holes to be filled. Luckily for the Packers, Summers is willing to do whatever he needs to help them win. At times during the season last year, the Packers used Summers as a fullback during practice due to injuries, but ultimately ended up going with Sternberger during games. I asked with Vitale leaving and Sternberger filling the number one TE role, if that is something that could happen. Here is his response:
“I don’t know. If it does I’m going to be the best dang fullback I can be. My position’s coach is always telling coaches I can catch.”
The Packers came one game away from the Super Bowl and are looking to take that final step this season. Many believe that the Packers will use the draft to address their linebacker needs, but it seems like people forgot how talented Ty Summers is and what he can bring to the Packers defense. I want to remind fans not to forget about Summers and do not be surprised to see him playing a bigger role this season. Like he said, whatever his role is he is going to be the best at it. That is the team first mentality that gets players opportunities, and Summers will make the most of every opportunity he gets.