To Derek Wolfe, that life-changing phone call will mean just a little bit more than for most of the players.
Wolfe, the standout defensive lineman from Cincinnati, never met his father. When his mother and stepfather divorced, Wolfe moved in with his stepfather. That relationship crumbled when the stepfather got remarried. So, as a high school sophomore, Wolfe left and was essentially on his own until he was taken in by the parents of one of his best friends, Logan Hoppel.
"I've had to tell (the story) from the first scout that walked in the door at Cincinnati to (NFL) head coaches. I've told it to everybody," Wolfe told Packer Report.
With love from his new family, Wolfe blossomed on and off the field. Wolfe, an extremely athletic 6-foot-5, 295-pounder, is a potential first-round draft pick.
"It's nice to have people that care, whether you're good at football or not," Wolfe said. "They like you for the person that you are and that's why they care about you . I think I have a big heart and i care about others. I try to treat people like I want to be treated. People saw the good traits in me and they decided I was a great kid and made sure I knew that. They taught me what they could and tried to support me in anything I wanted to do."
With that support, Wolfe kept his life on track when his broken home could have led him down the wrong path.
"When you watch people do things the wrong way your whole life," Wolfe said before cutting himself off. "We all make our own decisions. Whether you have a good family or a screwed up family, we all can make our own decisions. You can change your stars any time you want to. I had a great opportunity being big and athletic so I just ran with it and tried to do anything I could to be the best player I can be. When you set a goal, anything that distracts you from that goal, you've got to get out of your life."
Nothing could distract Wolfe, who plays and trains with a single-minded purpose. His 5.01 clocking in the 40-yard dash and 33 reps on the 225-pound bench press at the Scouting Combine make him one of the fastest and strongest big guys in the draft. A year ago, he was named one of the National Strength and Conditioning Association's Strength and Conditioning All-Americans.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
"That's what I do. I train hard and I try to be in the best shape I possibly can at all times," Wolfe said. "It's what you do when nobody's looking that matters, and that's what that award means to me."
Wolfe considered entering the draft following his junior season and might have been a Day 2 selection.
"I had a couple dollars," he recalled. "It was like, man, I've got no money. I'm tired of having to live off of other people. When you have to rely on other people your whole life, it gets old. I felt like I was mooching and I was tired of it. I'm not in any better situation right now, you know, but at least there's a light at the end of the tunnel."
Instead of making an emotional decision, Wolfe talked to his coaches. One of his stepfather's sisters lent him some money to make ends meet.
The decision barely could have worked out better. As a senior, Wolfe was named the Big East's co-defensive player of the year. His 9.5 sacks ranked third in the conference, and his 21.5 tackles for losses led the Big East, ranked fifth nationally and paced the nation's defensive tackles. On plays he made against the run, ball-carriers lost an average of 1.1 yards per attempt, according to statistics from NFL scout Dave-Te' Thomas.
"Last year, I was just happy thinking I was going to be a third- to fourth-round pick," Wolfe said. "Now that it looks like I could be in the first day, no, I didn't really think that was going to happen, but that was the goal. The goal was always to try to be great. That's still the goal. This is not the end of anything. It's just the start of a new era in my life."
With his combination of height, athleticism and strength, Wolfe is seen as one of the best 3-4 defensive ends in the draft. His pass-rushing ability makes him a gem at a position known mostly for run-stuffers. But Wolfe can stop the run, too. In his 38 games in the starting lineup, he didn't allow a touchdown run and yielded just one run of 10 yards.
He's garnered some first-round buzz of late and would be a fit for Green Bay with the 28th selection of the first round. While he wouldn't go into detail, Wolfe said he met with the Packers at the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine.
"I think I'm perfect for it. I would love to do that," Wolfe said of playing the five-technique. "I grew up loving Green Bay. That was my favorite team growing up. I live real close to Pittsburgh and everybody loves Pittsburgh, and I always loved the Pittsburgh defense, but for some reason, I just always loved Green Bay. I liked Brett Favre. My first year (playing football), I was a quarterback and running back. Defensively, I loved watching Reggie White. Those are guys that I looked up to."
Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.