Scott Tolzien's journey from Rose Bowl to practice squad
Quarterback Scott Tolzien. (Practice squad) Image by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
GREEN BAY - He used to be The Man. Now, he's the last man.
Three years ago, Scott Tolzien led the Wisconsin Badgers to the Rose Bowl, winning the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award along the way.
Today, after two years on the San Francisco 49ers bench, Tolzien is back in Wisconsin...in Green Bay, to be precise, as the Packers last-resort quarterback...not even on the active roster, Tolzien is on the practice squad.
In other words, despite Wisconsinites rooting their hearts out for him just three years ago, right now, he's the absolute last person anyone in this state wants to see on Game Day Sunday.
"I find it very similar to when you are in high school," Tolzien says of his stardom in college to obscurity in the NFL. "Same situation. You're working your way up the ladder."
But it is a tall ladder to climb, with Aaron Rodgers not looking to give up his stranglehold on the position anytime soon. But in an ironic twist of fate, the Rolling Meadows, Illinois native became a Packers fan because of another iconic quarterback.
"When I was really little, I though (Packers) uniforms were cool; the color combination," Tolzien fondly recalls. "On my fourth birthday, my Golden Birthday, I got a Packers '4' jersey. '4' just because it was my birthday. Shortly thereafter, (Brett) Favre took over and I was hooked."
Of course, growing up in the Chicago suburbs as a Packers fan wasn't always easy. In a football sense, he was the black sheep of the Tolzien family. "I would say that's accurate," Tolzien says today of his Autumn Sunday outcast status, laughing. "I was the loner. The lone soldier."
But after graduating from Fremd High School in Palatine, Tolzien wasn't heavily recruited by major football universities, but rather than sign with one of the four smaller schools that were after him, he held out for an offer from Wisconsin. At Madison, Tolzien would eventually lead the Badgers to the Rose Bowl. Unfortunately that day the Badgers came up just short, 21-19 to TCU, with Tolzien's two-point conversion pass batted down by current Cleveland Browns linebacker Tank Carder.
Two years later, albeit as a backup, Tolzien was in the Super Bowl with the 49ers. And, like at Wisconsin, Tolzien's team came up just a little bit short.
But when he wasn't retained after training camp in San Francisco, it opened up the door for the Packers, underwhelmed by their own backup quarterbacks, to bring in someone who has been literally wearing their jersey since he was a toddler.
And in doing so, the Packers even converted some new fans along the way - Tolzien's Bears-loving family back in Rolling Meadows.
"Yeah, they've made the transition," Tolzien reports. "That was the past and this is the present. They're pumped and excited for me."