GREEN BAY, Wis. — Across the top of the locker stall, the nameplate reads: “Ringo 97.” At the bottom of the stall is a prominent “G” — one of the most recognizable logos in sports.
The Green Bay Packers’ locker room is a place Christian Ringo is starting to feel at home.
Ringo can relax in his small space and contemplate his future. The 23-year-old knows what he does on the field is going to determine if he makes the Packers’ 53-man roster.
The rookie defensive tackle out of Louisiana-Lafayette made a name for himself getting to quarterbacks in college.
Ringo — who is four stalls down from the best quarterback in the NFL, reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers — amassed 21 sacks — 11½ as a senior — in his four seasons with the Ragin’ Cajuns. That’s one big reason the Packers used their second of three sixth-round picks, No. 210 overall, in the NFL draft to select Ringo.
“Yeah that grabs your attention, sure,” Packers General Manager Ted Thompson said about Ringo’s sack total after drafting him. “It’s splash stuff. But you have to do the nuts and bolts, too. We like him. We think he’s a pretty good player.”
Ringo has been adapting pretty well to his new surroundings.
“Just get in the playbook, get to the ball, work hard, show them that I’m a grinder and I’m going to give it my all,” Ringo said. “I’ll put it all on the line. That, plus more to make the team.”
Ringo’s transition from a Division I college to the NFL has been smooth. That’s not always the case.
“When I was at (Louisiana-Lafayette), we played bigger competition,” Ringo said. “When we played those guys, I wanted to make sure they saw what my talent was. I wanted to come out and make an impact any way I could.”
Ringo’s on-field ability has caught the attention of his teammates.
“He’s a great pass rusher, that’s what we look for. That’s what the Green Bay Packers are about,” Packers second-year defensive tackle Khyri Thornton said. “You’ve got Clay Matthews, you’ve got Julius Peppers, you’ve got Mike Neal, great pass rushers. Christian Ringo, I feel like, can come in and be an automatic impact at that position.”
Said Packers defensive back Micah Hyde, “He’s definitely a competitor, a real go-getter.”
Being undersized at 6-foot-1, 298 pounds, Ringo tries to compensate with his never-ending work ethic in the trenches. He’s trying to show the Packers’ coaching staff he’d like to be a fixture in the team’s defense for years to come.
“I see a hard-working kid,” defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. “He’s got some good quickness, got to teach him to use that all of the time. Fundamentally, he’s got a little bit of ways to go, but he works hard.”
The Packers have solid depth on the front three of the defensive line in their 3-4 scheme. An “unofficial” depth chart on the Packers’ website on Aug. 9 listed Ringo as the third-string right defensive end behind starter Mike Daniels and backup Josh Boyd.
For much of last season, Green Bay carried six defensive linemen on its active roster. Add in defensive tackle B.J. Raji, who missed all of last season with an injury, and there are limited defensive line spots up for grabs.
“I can bring different things, probably like a relief guy if the starters get tired,” Ringo said. “I definitely would love that job.”
Ringo, who started 30 of 45 games he played in at Louisiana-Lafayette, earned some first-team reps on the fourth day of the Packers’ training camp on Aug. 3. He lined up opposite tackle Bryan Bulaga and attempted to sack Rodgers.
“It’s an honor,” Ringo said. “I’m going to come with my best, and we’re going to try to make one another better.”
Along with tirelessly working to make the roster, Ringo has a handful of goals he’d like to achieve during training camp and preseason games.
“I would be satisfied coming out using good techniques, getting off blocks, running to the ball and trying to make a couple plays — just to see how it is in an actual NFL game and a taste of that,” Ringo said. “I’m excited, man. I’m ready for it.”
Landing in Green Bay was an ideal fit for Ringo. Green Bay has a population of about 105,000 — 80,000 of whom could fit into the Lambeau Field seats at once — and Lafayette’s population is nearly 125,000. Ringo acknowledged it would have been tough for him to get drafted by a large-market team such as the New York Giants or Chicago Bears.
“I’m a small-town guy,” Ringo said. “I think I do the best in small towns where there ain’t nothing to do but just sit up and study football and chill.”
Ringo loves the Packers’ culture and the fact it’s a franchise that has been around for 96 years and captured 13 world championships. As legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi often said: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” That certainly applies in Green Bay.
“I always wanted to be a part of a place with tradition,” Ringo said. “I don’t see any other team in the NFL that is more traditional than this place right here. Everything is organized to the T, it’s amazing. It’s a great place to come and get your work in. And to see all the players in green and gold before us, it’s amazing.”