Brandon Bostick was a 245-pound receiver – 245 pounds!
"Yeah, and it was Division II," Bostick said with a smile.
Playing on an offense that approached a 3-to-1 run-to-pass ratio as a senior, Bostick finished fourth in school history with 136 receptions, third with 1,935 receiving yards and second with 19 touchdown catches.
Then came the harsh reality. The NFL is not Division II. Bostick wasn't drafted in 2012, and he wasn't snapped up in the undrafted free agent feeding frenzy, either. The Packers brought him in with the rest of their tryout prospects but wasn't signed then, either.
A month later, Bostick said, "I was at home. I was moping around. ‘Damn, I should be playing.' I was working out one day and John Dorsey (then-director of college scouting) called my agent and my agent called me and said, ‘They want you back.'"
After catching three passes for 28 yards in the preseason, he didn't make the team but was quickly added to the practice squad. Of the original eight, only quarterback B.J. Coleman and offensive linemen Andrew Datko and Greg Van Roten remained on the team's payroll by season's end.
Tight end might have been deepest position on the roster but Bostick left a lasting impression, nonetheless.
"I like the kid," tight ends Jerry Fontenot said at the end of last season. "He's got speed, he's an efficient route-runner, he's got good hands, big hands. He's the kind of guy that defenses would have to account for. Hopefully, we'll be able to spend more time together during the offseason and move into next season with him challenging for a role on our offense."
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, Bostick said he's up to about 260 pounds in hopes of improving his blocking but has kept the "God-given speed" that had him clocked in 4.59 seconds at pro day.
"I'm a lot better. I've made drastic gains," Bostick said. "I know the playbook and I've put on more weight. My blocking has improved. I think I've made that step and now it's time to take another step and make the 53."
Bostick, who wears No. 86 now after donning 48 last year, hears opportunity knocking. Tom Crabtree signed with Tampa Bay. Andrew Quarless missed all of last season with a knee injury. Two tight ends were drafted in 2011 but D.J. Williams has provided surprisingly little impact in the passing game (seven catches for 57 yards in 12 games in 2012) and Ryan Taylor's calling card is special teams (one catch for 11 yards in 2012). Inconsistent and high-priced veteran Jermichael Finley is entering his final season under contact. Plus, with just three proven receivers and perhaps a bigger emphasis in heavy sets to power the running game, there could be more snaps available for the tight ends.
"There's always an opportunity," Bostick said. "If you make plays, they'll keep you around."
At just 6-foot-3 and with limited experience as an in-line blocker, Bostick's not exactly the prototype tight end. But he fits the Packers' mold of a player who can line up at the line of scrimmage as well as split out wide or in the backfield. He said tearing up those Division II defenses gives him an advantage against defensive backs and linebackers because he knows how to run routes and get the ball.
"Yeah, I think this is the best fit for me," he said. "The tight end position's a lot like receiver. At tight end, you've got to know all the positions (in line, slot, receiver and some fullback), so I think I fit real well with my skill-set and my talent."
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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.