GREEN BAY – Maurice Drayton feels at home on special teams.
It’s not that the Packers’ new special teams coordinator hasn’t coached other areas.
In spending nine of his 14 years in the college ranks at his alma mater, The Citadel, Drayton coached at least a half dozen different positions and worked his way up to defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.
But he got his start in the NFL five years ago as an assistant on special teams for the Indianapolis Colts, a break that mirrored the roots of his playing career at The Citadel as an undersized walk-on assigned to the punt and kick return teams.
“I’m small in stature by nature and that was a way for me to get on the field,” Drayton said earlier this week when he met with the media for the first time since receiving the promotion to special teams coordinator from Head Coach Matt LaFleur.
“I’ve always been a blue-collar guy, raised by a son of a Marine turned minister in a Methodist church. Mom’s an educator, school teacher. So, we’ve always been blue-collar. To me, special teams is blue-collar.”
He has plenty of hard-nosed work ahead to turn around a Packers special-teams unit that bottomed out last season.
The downfall started with a blocked punt and failed onside-kick recovery at Houston in Week 7, and things only got worse.
In the second half of the year, the coverage units allowed two punt returns for touchdowns (vs. Jacksonville and Philadelphia) and a long kickoff return that almost went the distance (at Detroit). Meanwhile, the return game generated no explosive runbacks and lost two fumbles (at Indianapolis and Chicago), and a botched extra point in the playoffs fortunately didn’t cost the team.