"My mom told me, ‘If you have a Plan B, you're not going to commit to Plan A. So, if this is your dream, chase you dream.'"
Van Roten, a three-year starting offensive lineman at Pennsylvania, participated in minicamps held by the Jets and Chargers in May but was not signed. He earned his degree but his football career was on hold.
"I talked to Green Bay pretty much whole summer," Van Roten said. "They said they still wanted to see me so just be ready. I finally got the call a week before camp started. They flew me out on Monday, I tried out on Tuesday and got signed on Wednesday. Before that, I was just working out at my old high school with my coaches and some of my buddies from college."
Van Roten signed one day before the start of training camp, taking the place created by the release of safety Charlie Peprah.
"It was kind of unreal," he said. "I signed the contract Wednesday morning and it was like, ‘Did I just sign a football contract? Did that just happen?' It was pretty awesome."
Despite arriving in Green Bay about three months after his fellow rookie offensive linemen, Van Roten has acquitted himself nicely. In the one-on-one pass-rushing drill, Packer Report and the Green Bay Press-Gazette's Rob Demovsky had Van Roten going 9-0 entering Thursday night's practice. He ran his mark to 10-0 by easily beating second-round pick Jerel Worthy but couldn't quite hold off Mike Neal after Neal's quick inside spin move.
"I guess so," Van Roten said with a laugh when asked if pass protection is his forte. "Pass blocking, especially the one-on-ones, that's not something where you need to know the assignment or scheme. It's not like we're running a play. This is the guy across from you, you have to block him and stop him from getting to the quarterback. It's simpler mentally; physically, you have to be able to take it on."
Van Roten is playing left and right guard with the No. 3 offensive line.
"He's done a couple of nice things," offensive line coach James Campen said on Wednesday. "From a standpoint of coming in quickly, he's done a good job. He's adjusted. He's a very smart kid. He's behind because, obviously, he wasn't here."
Van Roten is typical of most of the Packers' linemen in that he played left tackle at Pennsylvania. Van Roten was a center as a freshman but didn't play in any varsity games. He started at left tackle for most of his final three seasons, with a couple-game stint at guard because of injuries. In all, he was all-Ivy League for his final three seasons, including to the first team as a junior and senior.
That experience at guard has been helpful.
"Yeah, seriously," he said. "I'm not used to pulling a lot but it's not too complicated. I'm used to pulling left as a tackle to get outside on plays. Now I've got to pull right and get into the line and work on trying to pick up a linebacker vs. a corner."
It's been a hectic week as he tries to digest a playbook his teammates received months ago. Fortunately, nothing new will be installed for Friday's Family Night and Saturday is an off day.
"I'm picking it up as I go," Van Roten said. "Thankfully now, the installs are going to start throttling down so I'll be able to play catch-up. It's nice to have days off so I can get in the playbook so I can learn my assignments. Footwork-wise, I'm there. I just need to go where I'm going so I can put it all together."
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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.