Undrafted but Undaunted, an NFL Hopeful Persists
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Early on Sunday, with the lazy morning sunlight splashing through Lambeau Field's atrium, the Green Bay Packers personnel department gathered in a third-floor conference room. The topic was the future of the 22 players invited to try out at the team's three-day rookie minicamp.
The time had come to pick those who would be offered contracts. Folders were opened; notes consulted. Two days of practice were examined. By 9 a.m., decisions had been made.
They would not be revealed for several more hours.
As he prepared for the last practice of his tryout, former Maryland tackle Dane Randolph would not know his fate with the Packers was sealed. He had driven any thoughts of his football survival from his mind since he arrived on Thursday. It was obvious his chance of making the Packers was almost impossible. He could see that every time he looked around the alcove off the team's locker room where the players on tryout dressed two to a locker. There were so many of them. And they seemed so good.
Thinking about the futility of his dream would do nothing to help, however. So he focused his attention on the more tangible aspects of his tryout, like the Don Hutson Center, the Packers' eight-story indoor practice facility where the three days of workouts were held. Here on the soft turf, under the buzzing stadium lights strung in the ceiling, he knew he had a chance. Three days of practice, each running about 90 minutes, which meant he had about 4 1/2 hours of football, none of them in pads, to show the Packers they should keep him.
He hoped for something, anything, that would make them notice.
Then, on Friday afternoon, during the first practice, it happened. He made a mistake, something he didn't notice at first. It came during a pass blocking drill when he pushed the player he was blocking back, away from the quarterback. Then, when it felt as if the play was done, he stopped.
"No," offensive line coach James Campen said. Randolph had given up too soon. What if the play wasn't over? It is always at moments like this when the pass rusher is at his most dangerous, coming back at the quarterback from behind.
A few minutes later, another pass rush came Randolph's way.
"Sit down on him!" Campen shouted as Randolph crouched, pushing the pass rusher away, holding him off with a stiff right arm for what seemed like 10 seconds.
Campen nodded. He called Randolph over and shook his hand. Randolph had passed his first test. He had taken a coach's instruction and then applied it the next time he could. After the practice, as the offensive linemen stretched before heading to the locker room, Campen told the group, "What Dane did was perfect."
The next morning, as the offensive linemen met with Campen, the coach again mentioned Randolph and tried to show the film of the play. Except that Randolph had held the block for so long, the person taping the practice cut the taping off before Randolph was finished. Still, the glow lingered for Randolph.