INDIANAPOLIS––California center Brian Schwenke knows there are higher powers at play when it comes to determining where he’ll land in the NFL, namely general managers and other professional football decision makers.
But the potential of playing with another Golden Bears alumni, namely Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, is an intriguing one.
“It’s a possibility,” said Schwenke at the NFL Combine on Thursday. “It’s not my call, but it’s a possibility.”
Schwenke has seen what Rodgers has accomplished from afar and can’t help but be impressed.
“I’ve never actually met him,” said Schwenke, “but seeing the success he had, that’s definitely inspirational, knowing he came from Butte (California), JUCO guy.”
The more time goes on, the more Schwenke is climbing up draft boards and becoming one of the more highly regarded centers in this year’s Draft class.
Prior to his senior season, Schwenke hadn’t even played center. But in 2012, he made the position switch, and the move has paid off.
The Cal product was invited to Senior Bowl in late January where he created quite a buzz. Observers called him the best center in Mobile. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock called him the second-biggest Senior Bowl week riser, behind only Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher.
Schwenke doesn’t want to toot his own horn, but in reality, he can’t avoid the praise.
“I don’t really pay attention to what people are saying often, but my agent and everybody’s saying that it was a good experience for me, and it did me well,” said Schwenke.
It’s not as if Schwenke can pinpoint what exactly he did that was so impressive. In fact, he wonders what people saw in him that they didn’t see during the season.
Regardless, he’s now being viewed as one of the best players at his position, and it just so happens to be a position in flux at Green Bay now that Jeff Saturday has decided to retire.
What’s next for the Packers is a decision on Evan Dietrich-Smith who replaced Saturday toward the end of the season. With two games left in the regular season and then for the duration of the playoffs, Dietrich-Smith acquitted himself well.
The Packers could take a calculated gamble and decide to stick with “EDS” as their center or pick up a player like Schwenke in the Draft come April.
It’s a difficult decision, and one that Packers Hall of Fame center Larry McCarren isn’t 100 percent sure about.
“I don’t know if it’s a need,” said McCarren at the NFL Combine about the center position. “Certainly you can’t have enough good players, but I thought Evan Dietrich-Smith did a good job. He got his audition period, and he wasn’t just okay, I thought he was good when he was starting and so forth.
“He handled the pressure of late-season games and the playoffs well. I just think he got his foot in the door in a pretty big way. Now, if the Packers can find themselves a good player, right place, right guy at the right time, that’s fine, but I don’t look at that as a pressing need, because of what Evan Dietrich-Smith did at the end of the year.”
Even though Schwenke appears to be building some momentum heading into the Draft, he’s not currently in the discussion among players projected to go in the first round. Perhaps the Packers can afford to address center on Day 2 of the Draft and grab a guy like Schwenke, or not all.
Whatever happens, wherever he lands, Schwenke knows he’ll be able to handle the rigors of the NFL.
“I’ve never thought that far ahead, but I’ve always known I would be able to play at the next level when the time came,” said Schwenke. “I have a good amount of confidence in myself and my abilities. My senior year, I was sure of it, and I have no problem playing against any one.”
Brian Carriveau is the author of “It’s Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America,” and editor of Cheesehead TV’s “Pro Football Draft Preview.” To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.