GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Not long after the picture of AJ Dillon – of his massive legs, more accurately – went semi-viral on the first day of Green Bay Packers training camp, a message came in from one his trainers:
AJ Dillon's tree trunk legs pic.twitter.com/34t1JXr— Rob Demovsky (@RobDemovsky) Aug. 24, 2020
“We did work on the arms a bit, as well,” it read with a pair laughing-face emojis.
Scotty Smith, the owner and founder of Synergy Sports Performance, also attached a picture that showed Dillon doing the T-bar row lift with five full size plates at the end of the bar and Dillon’s left arm practically bulging out of his tattoos.
Just like Smith proved there’s more to the Packers’ second-round pick than just his legs, Dillon wasted no time showing that he’s not just a power running back. Practice after practice so far in training camp, Dillon displayed an aspect of his game not often seen at Boston College, where he caught just 21 passes in three seasons.
There was the deep catch down the seam on a perfectly feathered throw from Tim Boyle in the second practice of camp on Ray Nitschke Field in helmets and shorts followed by a carbon copy of the play in full pads during the Lambeau Field practice a few days later. Had either been live contact periods, Dillon might have taken a big hit from a closing defensive back -- but chances are the defender would have bounced off the 6-foot, 247-pound running back.
“I never want to be put in just a big-back box,” Dillon said. “I can help out the team any way. So, legs, arms, hands, whatever it may be, I’m trying to be complete in all aspects of my game. Having those reps, going out [and] catching passes [was] something I didn’t have the opportunity to do too much at BC -- not necessarily lack of talent or anything like that, it was just what we ran. So, I’m getting used to it now and try to help out the offense or wherever I can.”
Dillon has been in Green Bay since shortly after the draft. He found a workout home with Smith, who also hosted first-round pick Jordan Love and several other players at his facility located just a few miles from Lambeau Field during the virtual offseason program.
Once things went from virtual to an in-person training camp, Dillon joined a diverse backfield group that has left many asking how head coach Matt LaFleur will distribute snaps among 2019 breakout star Aaron Jones, reliable veteran Jamaal Williams, gadget back Tyler Ervin and now Dillon, whose size makes him unlike anyone else in the group.
With both Jones and Williams headed into contract years, perhaps Dillon is the future of the Packers’ backfield.
But for now, he could be an intriguing complement to the group. Dillon outweighs Jones by nearly 40 pounds. He even has the stout Williams beat by more than 30 pounds, while Ervin looks more like a receiver at just 192 pounds.
“The first day he came in, I saw his legs and was like, ‘Wow, this dude’s legs are pretty big,’” laughed Jones, who said the only other NFL running back he’s seen with comparable legs is Saquon Barkley. “Definitely has some big legs. Me and Jamaal, we’ve just been pushing each other. We’re very excited. Coach LaFleur likes to get the backs involved in the passing game. That’s been a known thing since he came in that he likes to do that. Just continuing to work with us, work tracking the ball and different things like that.”
Said Williams of Dillon: “He looks good. My boy's moving. He's moving for how big he is. Man, he knows how to play, and he’s a real downhill runner. He has good hands. He’s doing great on his routes. He’s just real impressive.”
Back to those legs, though.
Less than a week into training camp, they already had their own Twitter account: @AJDillonLegs.
AJ Dillon's Legs pic.twitter.com/bit.ly/2QnlxDu— AJ Dillon's Legs (@AJDillonLegs) Aug. 22, 2020
During the Packers’ practices without pads, Dillon rolled up his shorts extra high.
“I’ve always worn my shorts like that, by the way; it’s not like a new thing,” he said with a chuckle. “I did it at BC. I don’t know, I just like it. It’s definitely not a new thing, but it was more like a controlled kind of joke, and now it’s kind of all over. But it’s funny, I enjoy it, and I embrace it, you know. I have big legs.”
LaFleur said he’s never seen a running back built like Dillon.
“Not in my career, that I’ve been around,” LaFleur said at the start of camp.
“I can't take complete credit for it; some of it’s genetics,” Dillon said. “But once I got to college, at Boston College, I really started to realize how much of an impact I could have having a sturdy base like that and being able to stay up and being able to keep my legs driving through contact. I feel like back at Boston College, I made it a real point to really focus on leg strength and being able to move at my size."