Pagel determined to claim a fullback spot

Matt Pagel, a fullback out of little-known Wisconsin- La Crosse, is determined to make the Chargers team after being signed as an undrafted free agent. The way he ended up in San Diego, though, was even more unlikely than his emergence from such an unknown collegiate program.

"I was talking with New Orleans, Green Bay, Cincinnati and Seattle," Pagel said, "but those teams had pretty much filled up their needs during the draft. So my agent called up Marty and told him he had a fullback who weighed 245 lbs. and could run a 4.35 and block pretty descent, and they went ahead and signed me. Marty hadn't even seen any tape on me."

In fact, Matt Pagel credits his agent, Joe Linta, with placing him in such an enviable position in San Diego. His agent also represents defensive end Jacques Cesaire and safety Robb Butler, two players who made the team as undrafted free agents.

It is not as if Pagel is unqualified.

He is a six time all-American in track. He played fullback his first three years at La Crosse before moving to halfback before his senior season, showing off his versatility. He also returned kicks there, something he hopes he gets a chance to do in San Diego as well.

"Marty and I haven't talked about where he'll use me specifically," concedes Pagel. "I know I'll play a big role on special teams, whether I'm returning kicks or covering kicks or whatever. On offense I know I'm playing fullback."

It is the Chargers depth chart at fullback that has Pagel so optimistic.

Starter Lorenzo Neal is entering his 13th season, and is also in the last year of his contract. The other incumbent to the position, Andrew Pinnock, is more of a running back than a fullback. Pagel views this as the ideal situation for him.

"Lorenzo's obviously a great blocker and I think I can come in and learn a lot from him," Pagel said. "But he's also been playing for like 12 years, so he might only play another two or three years, so I think there's definitely a spot for me."

Besides playing with Neal, the other player Pagel can't wait to get acquainted with is LaDainian Tomlinson.

"I can't wait to block for LT," Pagel said. "He's obviously a great back."

While he may be in awe of Pro Bowlers such as Neal and Tomlinson, he in no way feels in over his head as makes the jump to the professional level.

"If you can play football you can play football, I don't care what school you came from," according to Pagel. "This may sound cocky or whatever, but I think I'll be a better athlete than most people there. I just need to go in and give a 110 percent."

The Chargers have been known for finding big time players in small school settings.

They invested a second-round pick in Vincent Jackson, hoping he could make the jump from Northern Colorado. They have invested less in Pagel, but considering his speed, production and confidence, the potential payoff may be just as great.

Michael Lombardo can be reached at

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