Could've been a lot worse
Tolzien's aunt grew up in Marinette
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 6:00 PM
NEW BERLIN, Wis. - Call it aunt's intuition.
Green Bay Packers’ Scott Tolzien drops back to pass during the first half against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday.
The Associated Press
Laurel (Johnson) Pope couldn't pass on a chance to score tickets to Sunday's Green Bay Packer game, not with her nephew, Scott Tolzien, on the Pack's active roster.
"I just had a feeling," said Pope, a 1978 Marinette High School graduate.
A feeling that Tolzien might just get to play.
When Seneca Wallace left after one series due to a groin pull, Tolzien realized every kid's dream by going in at quarterback.
"I couldn't believe it," aunt Laurel said. "I was just so excited to see him wearing a Packer uniform. We just started screaming and high-fiving."
As was the case during his Wisconsin Badgers' career, Tolzien did very well, all things considered.
Signed to the Packer practice squad on Sept. 1, Tolzien was activated on Nov. 5 - two days after Aaron Rodgers sustained a fractured collarbone. Practice squad players - who can be picked up by any team - don't get a copy of the playbook. Tolzien had just a few days with the Packer playbook before entering Sunday's game.
His regular-season pro debut began with the Packers backed up to their own end zone - the 6-yard line. He went on to complete 24 of 39 passes for 280 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
With last week's talk that the Packers might sign Matt Flynn, the Popes feared that Tolzien might be waived. Instead, the Packers waited until this week to sign Flynn, and Tolzien earned the starting job for Sunday's game at the New York Giants.
Aunt Laurel is certain that he is buried in the playbook night and day, doing everything possible to prepare for the golden opportunity.
"He's so driven," she said. "He just wants to do everything he can to improve. He studied Aaron Rodgers like a hawk."
Tolzien grew up in a family of Chicago Bears fans in Rolling Meadows, Ill. At age 4, he liked the Green and Gold Packer colors, then took a shine to Brett Favre, and has been a Packer fan ever since.
At Wisconsin, Tolzien redshirted in 2006, didn't play in '07 and completed five of eight passes for 107 yards in '08. In 2009, he completed a Wisconsin record 211 passes in 328 attempts for 2,705 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
In 2010, Tolzien completed 194 of 266 passes for 2,459 yards, 16 TDs and six interceptions. His 73 completion percentage set a school record and ranks No. 2 all-time in the Big Ten. Tolzien earned the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl, and played in the East-West Shrine Game.
The San Diego Chargers signed Tolzien as an undrafted free agent. In three preseason games, he completed 25 of 40 passes for 302 yards, a touchdown and one interception. He was claimed off waivers by the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 4, 2011. They waived him on Aug. 26 but he was signed by the Pack just five days later.
"For him to have the opportunity to go to the (Packer) practice squad, it was like a dream," Laurel said.
Now he's an NFL starter, for one week, at least.
"It's crazy how fast things can change," aunt Laurel said. "It's exciting, but yet it's nerve-wracking."
Tolzien is the son of the sister of her husband, Jack Pope. Laurel and Jack have five children - Trevor, 26; Carson, 24; Mason, 22; Morgan, 20; and Jared, 18.