MADISON––When the drills were done and his audition was over at Wisconsin’s pro day workout on Wednesday inside the McClain Center in Madison, quarterback Scott Tolzien was approached by Packers head coach Mike McCarthy for a private one-on-one conversation.
Despite the fact he led the Badgers to a share of the Big Ten championship and an appearance in the Rose Bowl, and despite the fact that he was just invited to the NFL Combine and could very likely be drafted in April, Tolzien was a little star struck by the encounter.
“It was awesome,” said Tolzien, though not gushing. “I really appreciate him just going out of his way. Here I am just a college student, and Mike McCarthy comes up to me.
“He just congratulated me on a good season both as a program and individually. It was cool, being here in the state of Wisconsin, the Packers just won the Super Bowl and yet this guy is going out of his way to say hi and congratulate you. I thought that was really neat. It was a cool experience.”
Tolzien had just wrapped up his audition in front of a large group of NFL head coaches, scouts and front office types coming to scrutinize a talented draft class from Wisconsin.
And aside from it just being a ‘cool’ experience to talk to the Super Bowl-winning coach, McCarthy was there on business. The head coach is becoming known in league circles for being one of the best developers of quarterbacks in professional football.
Former NFL MVP and current Sirius NFL Radio analyst Rich Gannon, a former protégé of McCarthy, spoke highly of the way the Packers groom quarterbacks the week of the Super Bowl.
“I just think there’s some teams in football that do an outstanding job at developing the quarterback position,” said Gannon. “I think, quite frankly, there’s other teams that have no idea what they’re doing.
“I think that Mike and Tom Clements combined do an outstanding job of coaching that position.”
The results are starting to speak for themselves. From coaching Brett Favre during the Packers run to the NFC Championship game in 2007 to Aaron Rodgers’ current run of greatness to Matt Flynn possibly becoming a sought-after commodity, the proof is in the pudding.
“I think we all know based upon the guys that he’s coached, how successful they’ve been that his work has certainly rubbed off on them,” said Tolzien. “But I think more importantly, just the success they’ve had as a team.”
With the prospect of Flynn moving on either this year or next, the Packers could be looking for reinforcements at the quarterback position in this year’s NFL Draft.
So what does McCarthy think of Tolzien?
“I think he’s had an incredible college career,” said McCarthy, “and you always you’re always hopeful to work with these Wisconsin guys. And it would no different if I had the opportunity to work with Scott.”
Tolzien is known for being a smart, game manager and a winner without being flashy. In many ways, he’s a lot like Flynn.
If there’s a knock on him, it’s that he doesn’t have the arm strength necessary for the next level.
Although, Tolzien is doing his best to overcome any deficiencies by working out at Cutting Edge Sports Training in California in preparation for the NFL Draft.
And he’s working out individually with renowned quarterback coaches Bob and Rob Johnson, Rob being the recently retired 10-year NFL veteran who played from 1995 to 2006.
He says one of the things they’re working with him on is getting his arm up to what they call a three-quarters delivery.
“I’m 6-2, which is a good height,” said Tolzien, “but you can also play 6-2, you can play 6-3, you can play 6-0. It’s going to help you with just passes getting knocked down but also just stress on your arms when you’re coming from over the top rather than sidearm, it takes some pressure off your arm.
“And it’s definitely something I need to continue on because when I watch film of myself throwing, my good throws are when my arm’s up and the not so good ones are when my arm’s down.”
Tolzien recently finished his Badgers career by completing 410 of 602 passes (68%) for 5,271 yards with 32 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, and completed this most recent season by winning the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award annually given to the nation’s outstanding senior quarterback.
Now he looks to take his skills to game they play on Sundays.
The chances Tolzien is selected by the Packers might be only as good as 1 in 32, but he’s at least on Green Bay’s radar.