Hard Work and Perseverance Have Paid Off for Packers CB Rasul Douglas
Welcome to Why We Play, a series of discussions with current players and NFL Legends about their youth football experience and why they play the game.
Rasul Douglas has had to overcome a lot to make it to the NFL.
Douglas grew up in East Orange, New Jersey, the fifth of seven children raised by his grandmother.
“We were never bored," he said. "There was always someone around to hang out with."
Mike Davis, Douglas’ Little League baseball coach and a mentor for at-risk youths in East Orange, played a big role in Rasul’s early years.
"He was the one who took me out of the streets," Douglas said. “He made sure we did what we had to do.
"Sports wasn’t that big until I got a little older. I played baseball first, but I didn’t play football until I got to high school.’’
Douglas attended a performing arts school in northern New Jersey that didn’t have an athletic program. He played football at the local public high school, East Orange.
When he graduated, he had a few Division I offers. But Douglas felt he needed to attend a junior college first to prepare for the rigors of college and Division I athletics.
So Douglas enrolled at Nassau Community College. Nassau didn't have any dorms, so Douglas rented a small apartment eight miles from campus and took a bus back and forth to school and practice.
Douglas said he slept on the floor and ate only when he could afford it. His meals consisted of whatever was on the McDonald’s Dollar Menu, and he rationed meals to last a couple of days.
"It wasn't easy," he said "I’m going to school, and I haven’t really eaten, so I couldn't even think straight some times. And then I had to work out, and I'm hungry because I haven’t eaten.
"But I knew it would all work out one day. I just had to keep believing and working every day."
The hard work and self-belief began to pay off when Douglas transferred to West Virginia University for his final two seasons. In 2016, Douglas was All-Big 12 as a senior and tied for the NCAA lead with eight interceptions.
In the 2017 NFL Draft, Douglas was selected with the 99th overall pick by the Philadelphia Eagles. After his first three seasons in Philadelphia, Douglas played a year with the Carolina Panthers.
In 2021, he signed with the Green Bay Packers. This season, he's recorded a game-sealing interception for the Packers against the Arizona Cardinals and his first career pick-six against the Los Angeles Rams.
"I was driven to be here, and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me," Douglas said. "I had to do the things I had to do to get here. I tell everyone that.
"Everyone asks me about my story. Some people say they want to make it like I did. I just tell them it’s not about what school you go to, it’s all about how hard you work. Your work ethic speaks for itself. No one can teach you effort; you have it or you don’t."
Douglas says he encourages kids to pursue their goals with focus and determination.
"I tell them to work hard, stay focused and leave the distractions alone. Because there are a lot of things that will distract you from where you want to be. You just have to stay focused on what’s really important.
"Every time I eat, I always think I’m making up for a meal I missed in junior college. I put in the time and the work hoping it would pay off. The goal was to be here one day, and the hard work, the sacrifices, they allowed me to get here."
Photo: AP/Jeff Lewis
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