An Interview With Green Bay Packers 1996 First Round Draft Pick John Michels

In 1996, the Green Bay Packers drafted John Michels with the 27th pick overall pick of that year’s draft. When then-starter and fellow USC Trojan Ken Ruettgers went down with a knee injury, Michels took over the left tackle duties. He started nine games in his rookie season, helping the Packers win Super Bowl XXXI. He was named the Green Bay Packers 1996 Co-Rookie of the Year (along with Tyrone Williams) and earned NFL All-Rookie honors.

In 1997, he returned as the starting left tackle, starting the first five games of the season before injuring his right knee against the Detroit Lions. He was sidelined for the rest of the season and replaced by that year’s first round pick Ross Verba. After having his best training camp as a professional in 1998, he again injured his right knee and spent the year on injured reserve. Unable to recover from his knee injury, he struggled in training camp in 1999 and was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles for defensive end Jon Harris. Michels only lasted a couple of weeks in Philadelphia before his knee injury ultimately ended his career.

I recently caught up Michels to ask him about his football career, life after football and the current state of the Packers.

An Interview With Green Bay Packers First Round Draft Pick John Michels

How’d it feel to be drafted number 27 overall by the Green Bay Packers in the 1996 NFL Draft?

John: It was one of the greatest moments of my life.

What were your initial thoughts on the Green Bay Packers when you were drafted?

John: I loved the history and tradition of the Packers and was ecstatic to be a part of such a storied organization.

Did it take time to adjust to Green Bay coming from California?

John: The weather definitely took some getting used to. It was 85 degrees in Los Angeles on draft day and was snowing that same day in Green Bay.

Did you feel pressured when Ken Ruettgers went down and you became the starting left tackle in your rookie year?

John: There was a lot of responsibility on my shoulders to protect Brett Favre‘s blind side. This was a team destined for the Super Bowl and I did not want to be a reason for us not to achieve that goal.

Were you close with Brett Favre during your time in Green Bay and are you still close with him today?

John: Brett and I had a great working relationship, but I would not say we were close. I haven’t seen Brett in a few years, but it’s like no time passes when you are around ex-teammates.

Why do you think Brett was such a great quarterback?

John: Brett made everyone around him better. The great ones have a tendency to do that.

What did it mean to you to win a Super Bowl in your rookie year?

John: Sometimes I still think it was all a dream. Some people play 15 years and never come close to a Super Bowl, and I was fortunate enough to win one in my first year. Simply amazing.

Did you think just two years after winning a Super Bowl in your rookie year, you’d be forced to retire due to injury?

John: Never in my wildest dreams. I planned on playing 15 years and retiring as one of the all-time Packer greats. Life had different plans for me

Why exactly could you never return from your knee injury?

John: I tore my ACL, MCL, meniscus, and took a quarter size divot of bone off my femur beneath my knee cap. I had six reconstructive surgeries trying to repair the injuries, but have not been able to run without excruciating pain since the injury.

What’s your relationship like with the Packers today?

John: I love the organization and need to make it back to Green Bay more than I do. I’m planning on going up for a game this Fall

Why do you think the Packers have been back to just one Super Bowl since 1996 with all the talent they have had?

John: It just goes to show how difficult it is to make it to the Super Bowl. We’ve been close a couple of times. One play here, one injury there, and it can change the course of a season.

What do you think about Aaron Rodgers?

John: He will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

What are your thoughts on the 2017 Packers?

John: This team was one game away from the Super Bowl last season. The focus this off-season has been to sure up a pass defense that was ranked 31st in the league last season. Aaron Rodgers has a lot of magic left, and with a few defensive tweaks, this team should make a solid run for the Super Bowl.

Do you think there is any player that can stand up for the Packers this season and be that missing piece they need to get over the line once again?

John: The key player for this team, as it has been for a long time, is Aaron Rodgers. This team goes where he leads them.

How do you think the Packers offensive line will fare this season given its lost two Pro-Bowlers in the past year?

John: The losses of T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton are huge. However, the Packers still have two of the best pass protecting tackles in the league with David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga. The addition of Jahri Evans helps fill the vacancies left by TJ and Josh. I think the line will be solid and give Aaron the time he needs to do what he does.

What do you see in the Packers 2016 2nd round draft pick Jason Spriggs?

John: He is a big All-American offensive tackle who should grow into being a great lineman in the league for a lot of years. He’s got great size, feet and quickness. All the tools you want in an offensive tackle.

How valuable is a Left Tackle to a team’s success in today’s game?

John: There’s a reason left tackle is the second highest paid position on the team. If you can’t protect your quarterbacks blindside in today’s game, you can’t win.

What is your prediction for the Packers this season?

John: I think if Dom Capers and the defense are able to solidify against the pass, the 2017 Packers should be the favorite to win the North and be in the hunt to play in the Super Bowl in Minneapolis this coming February.

What have you been doing since your retirement in 1999?

John: After my sixth failed knee surgery I was inspired to go to medical school to help prevent injuries from stealing other people’s dreams. I am now double board certified in Radiology and Pain Medicine and practice Interventional Pain Management at Interventional Spine & Pain in Dallas Texas. My focus is on using conservative therapies and minimally invasive procedures to help minimize pain, maximize function, and get people back to living out their dreams.

Why do you think there has been an increase in ACL tears in the NFL in recent years?

John: The knee was not intended to handle the demands placed on it by today’s bigger and faster athletes.

Do you foresee any issues for Jordy Nelson down the line given he had a clean comeback season coming off his ACL tear?

John: Every knee injury is unique. That being said, Jordy was highly productive last season and did not show any signs that his ACL injury was hindering his performance. There is no reason to suspect that it should cause him any issues this season.

Do you think the future of the NFL is in trouble with parents now afraid to allow their children play football because of what has happened with concussions in the past number of years?

John: No, I just think we will get smarter about how we introduce children to the game. We will focus on teaching the fundamentals at a younger age, far before we start with contact.

This past January marked 20 years since you won a Super Bowl in your rookie year. What do you hope the next 20 years holds in store for you?

John: I have some big audacious dreams, that will hopefully impact a lot of lives in a positively powerful way. If I am able to accomplish those dreams, Packer fans will be proud of their former left tackle.