Scott Tolzien: Climbing The NFL Ladder


The 2011 NFL Draft was, at least for a few of the highly-touted pro quarterback prospects which were officially selected, the start of a promising if not illustrious journey.

Cam Newtwon of Auburn – a player many viewed as a once-in-a-lifetime talent – was selected with the first overall pick by Carolina. Jake Locker of Washington University went seventh to Tennessee. Locker’s selection kicked off a run of sorts. Jacksonville mortgaged their entire franchise’s future by investing in Blaine Gabbert out of Missouri at tenth overall. Which followed Christian Ponder, hailing from Florida State, whom was then chosen with choice number 12 by Minnesota.

Glazing over the rest of the draft class and register of names … we stumble across former University of Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien.

Andy Dalton of TCU and Colin Kaepernick of Nevada both were chosen in back-to-back slots with the 35th and 36th choices by Cincinnati and San Francisco, respectively. T.J Yates of North Carolina was tabbed by Houston way down the board in the fifth round.

Nearly all of these signal callers possessed the type of measurables that, seemingly, would make child’s play of intricate pro-style defenses in the NFL.

Newton was viewed as the double-threat who along with a cannon arm could easily bowl over linebackers and commmand the field in short yardage situations near the goal line. Locker was the savviest of the bunch, having overcome adversity in the form of several injuries to finish with a 10-21 record as a starter for the Huskies.

Gabbert had a rocket launcher attached to his right shoulder and was gifted with great pocket awareness and size. Ponder wasn’t as athletically gifted and lacked arm strength but was seen as a pro-ready prospect – a guy who led the Seminoles as their on-field coach. Dalton and Kaepernick both were very established if not raw passers who dropped into the second round.

Scott Tolzien watches as a play against the Eagles unfolds in 2013..

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Glazing over the rest of the draft class and register of names – long after each of those illustrious names were read aloud by the commissioner at center stage of Radio City Music Hall – we stumble across former University of Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien.

Tolzien was a two-star recruit out of Paletine High School in Paletine, Ill. He opted to head north to Madison where he labored from 2006 through 2009. This after forgoing initial interest from Kentucky.

During his early tenure in the state capital Tolzien had to endure nearly-constant fluctuation from injury and inconsistency to nearly every other starter ahead of him before he was finally afforded a chance to prove himself.

And Tolzien didn’t just prove himself.

He did that – and then some – tossing a school-record 211 completions in 2010 while leading the Badgers to a post season bowl victory over Miami University.

But for Tolzien – a wiry-framed and studious gym rat, his mark would be made not in live games but in the tedious game planning whose hallmarks are execution and preparation.

Countless hours hunkered down in film rooms studying the intricacies of defense that came all too easy to Newton and Ponder and Dalton and Kaepernick.

His payoff?

Being named the winner of the Johnny Unitas ‘Golden Arm’ award recognizing him for his work ethic.

So, Tolzien, went unchosen in the draft. Passed over time and again.

Eventually he inked a deal with the San Diego Chargers, appeared in three preason games with decent stats.

And buried behind Philip Rivers he was subsequently let go during the final round of roster cut downs in August of 2011.

He caught on with the San Francisco 49ers and earned a gritty reputation by being basically the coach on the field.

Eventually he was let go and the Packers made a claim.

Scott Tolzien … is he one of the long-term answers for the Green Bay Packers?

Raymond T. Rivard photograph

Fast forward to 2013 – Tolzien’s latest shot at carving out an existence carrying a clip board in the pros – and Aaron Rodgers‘ collarbone break heard ’round the world.

An ineffective Seneca Wallace gave way to Tolzien who earned his first pro start and which saw him toss his first official touchdown pass.

Though he has been inactive in all Packers games this season, coaches and fans know his time is coming.

Through it all Tolzien has inspired – and has kept climbing.

The future in Green Bay could be his – if even as a backup to Aaron Rodgers. His climb might stall if that’s the case, but that’s OK. If the Packers need him, he will be ready and prepared to keep the climb going.