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From the Northwest to the Midwest: Washington State OL Cole Madison taken by Green Bay Packers in fifth round

UPDATED: Sat., April 28, 2018, 6:37 p.m.

Washington State Cougars offensive lineman Cole Madison celebrates senior night before the first half of a college football game last November at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars offensive lineman Cole Madison celebrates senior night before the first half of a college football game last November at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

There was some thought that Cole Madison would get to start his professional career right at home in Seattle, lending aid to an offensive line that needed a few more pieces to protect its franchise quarterback.

Madison won’t suit up for his hometown Seahawks. Instead, the Washington State offensive lineman will ditch the rainy mountains of the Northwest and head to the upper Midwest’s frosty plains, where the Green Bay Packers and their own franchise QB hope he can add some reinforcement up front.

The Cougars right tackle was the first WSU player taken in the 2018 NFL Draft when the Packers selected him with the first pick of the fifth round, and the 138th pick overall, Saturday in Arlington, Texas. He becomes the first WSU offensive lineman picked up since 2016, when the Detroit Lions chose Spokane native Joe Dahl.

Madison and a group of his family members, friends and former WSU teammates, including Peyton Pelluer, Nate DeRider, Nick Begg, Colton Teglovic and Isaac Dotson, assembled at a Marriott hotel in Seattle to celebrate his big day. His mother, Marianne, broke into tears when Madison lit up with a phone call from the Packers. His father, Mark, breathed a sigh of relief, realizing that his son’s dream – one that was 15 years in the making – had finally come true.

“He’s loving it,” Madison said in a phone interview Saturday afternoon. … “I’ve been on the edge of my seat the last couple of days and not too stressed out. I knew it was going to happen, more of just when and where.”

Few NFL clubs have more history and pride than the one he’s joining.

Aaron Rodgers. Lambeau Field. Vince Lombardi. Madison will be immersed in the Packers’ rich culture when he arrives in Green Bay Thursday to commence his professional career.

“It’s an honor, honestly,” Madison said. “If you told someone to name the top NFL teams, the Packers would be there. They’re one of the first teams you think about when you think about the NFL.”

Madison considers Rodgers “probably one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time” and said it’s an honor “that they chose me to protect (him).”

“A Pac-12 guy, too, and just how he plays, how he can move in the pocket and he’s just got a cannon, too. He’s one of those guys I’m so happy I’ll be able to play with,” Madison said.

Soon enough, the NFC North organization will get to know their only offensive line draftee, whose dependability on the football field was as identifiable as the long, curly brown locks that unfolded beneath his helmet.

A three-time All-Pac-12 Conference honoree, Madison was as sturdy as they come, starting in each of the 47 games he appeared in at right tackle – the second-most starts in school history.

In an interview with The Spokesman-Review earlier this week, Madison said he expects he’ll have to shift inside to either guard or center in the NFL, although some reports have cited right tackle as Green Bay’s biggest need up front. Perhaps the Burien, Washington, native will get to audition at his old spot after all.

A short phone call with Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst, coach Mike McCarthy and offensive line coach James Campen didn’t give Madison any indication which position he’ll play at the next level.

“Hey, at the end of the day, wherever they throw me, that’s where I’m going to play,” he said. “If they put me at tackle, I can play there, if they put me at guard, I can play there, if they put me at center, I can play there, too.”

The Packers employed a patchwork offensive line much of the 2017-18 season due to injuries – two starters and two backups spent time on the injured reserve – and used eight different configurations in their first eight games. Ten configurations were used by the end of the season.

Rodgers, Green Bay’s two-time MVP, was sacked 22 times last season in his first seven games – the 22nd one coming on a nasty hit from Minnesota’s Anthony Barr that broke Rodgers’ collarbone and put him on IR the rest of the season. Backup Brett Hundley climbed into the starting role and was sacked 29 more times. The 51 sacks allowed ranked fifth in the NFL.

With Madison, Green Bay will get one of the top-graded pass-blockers in the 2018 Draft. According to Pro Football Focus metrics, Madison allowed only 22 pressures on 776 pass-blocking snaps and received a 90.3 grade, second-best among tackles in the 2018 class. In 2016, PFF considered him the top offensive tackle in the country.

Three of Green Bay’s current offensive linemen, Corey Linsley, Bryan Bulaga and all-pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, reached out to Madison with text messages shortly after he was drafted.

He anticipates he’ll get a crash course with the Packers’ playbook when he gets to Green Bay next week.

“I’m sure it’ll be some minicamp stuff,” he said. “Playbook, playbook, playbook.”