The hidden Ex Texan
The Freezer squashes The Fridge's legacy: Secrets of the Packers' Super Bowl D,characters included
The first breakout star of Super Bowl week has already been determined — even if that extravaganza in "North Texas" doesn't start for another seven days.
Get ready for the B.J. Raji blitz.
Underlisted at 6-foot-2, 337-pounds, the Green Bay Packers giant defensive lineman offers plenty of man to go around. And he'll get around to a ton of microphones after his feel-good performance in the NFC Championship Game — Raji's interception touchdown return stands as the signature play of Green Bay's 21-14 win over the Chicago Bears. Raji's fleet move to step in front of third-string Bears quarterback's Caleb Hanie's fourth quarter pass and the resulting anything-but-smooth, ball-extended rumble into the end zone looms larger than any Aaron Rodgers throw.
More importantly — this is Super Bowl hype we're talking about remember — Raji brings a nickname to swoon over with his big man moves.
Raji's dubbed himself The Freezer, a play on 1985 Bears icon William Perry's The Fridge moniker, which was so innovative in 1985-86 that it nearly caused sportscasters to faint in glee on every utterance. Of course, Fox's Joe Buck came pretty close to there himself while detailing Raji's Freezer story on Sunday.
They apparently don't raise sports marketing dummies at Boston College. For Raji, the ninth overall pick in the 2009 draft, actually graduated from college with a degree (a rarity for a vaunted NFL prospect) in sociology. Then again, his flair for the dramatic could be much more ingrained than that. Both of Raji's parents are Pentecoastal ministers.
The Freezer couldn't have picked a better opponent for his arrival game either. It's long past time, everyone moved on from The Fridge, the Super Bowl Shuffle and Perry's over-glorified one-yard touchdown run of 25 years ago for Da Bears.
A funny thing happened to the giant who mocked the Bears by extending the ball in one hand on his touchdown rumble in his postgame interviews though. Raji remembered the quiet "Texan" in the background.
That would be former Houston Texans coach Dom Capers, still the only head coach who Bob McNair has ever fired. Capers is even more important to Green Bay's Super Bowl run than Raji. For as the Packers defensive coordinator, Capers has done what the Texans desperately pray that Wade Phillips will be able to do for them next season: He's changed everything.
"Dom is a great coach," Raji said.
Green Bay's emerged as a defensive juggernaut more than Rodgers reliant, having held three of the NFL's best teams to 16, 21 and 14 points now in three stifling road playoff wins. And the 21 points surrendered to the No. 1 seed Falcons is a little deceiving considering the Packers held a 42-14 lead before giving up a late touchdown.
Capers' schemes have confounded likely NFL MVP Michael Vick, the fawned over Matty Ice and the Mike Martz-reborn Jay Cutler in back-to-back-to-back weeks.
It's enough to make you wonder if McNair has noticed how a former Texan (the franchise that doesn't know diddley about D) has taken over the NFL playoffs on that side of the ball.
Sometimes you have to look beyond The Freezer to see why certain teams are always frozen out of the big games.