July 11 is B. J. Raji’s 31st birthday. Despite showing enormous promise, Raji was ultimately a big disappointment for Packer fans. Selected as the ninth overall pick out of Boston College in 2009, Raji reported late due to salary negotiations and then injured his ankle in his rookie year, but at least learned his place in the defense. In his second season, it looked like a star was being born in Green Bay. Raji anchored the middle of the Packers defense in that championship year as the team’s nose tackle. He played in all 16 games, had 6.5 sacks, 39 tackles and played some goal line offense as an enormous blocking back ala William “Refrigerator” Perry, except the 6’2” 335-pound Raji was called the “Freezer.” In the postseason, B.J. made 12 tackles, a sack and even intercepted a pass in the NFC Championship against the Bears. On that play, he dropped into short middle zone coverage and picked off backup quarterback Caleb Hanie in the fourth quarter before running the ball in for a touchdown that made the score 21-7 Packers.
In 2011, Raji’s performance began to slip, although he made the Pro Bowl (the first Packer defensive tackle to do so since Bob Brown in 1972) on the basis of his splashy play the previous season. In 2012, he seemed to slip more and was shifted to defensive end where he continued in 2013, but he struggled in his new position. Finding no strong interest in the free agent market in the offseason, Raji signed a one-year $4-million-dollar deal with Green Bay to give him the chance to raise his market value, but then he tore his bicep in the preseason and spent 2014 on IR. Returning in 2015, Raji played more inside and functioned as a fairly effective role player. In 2016 he decided he no longer wanted to play football.
(Adapted from Green Bay Gold)
Custom card in the 1960 Topps style.