"Ultimately, you want to be like Aaron," said Tolzien, who is battling Matt Flynn to be Aaron Rodgers' backup quarterback.
Tolzien had his moments last season. He led all quarterbacks with 66.7 percent accuracy on deep passes, going 6-of-9 on tosses at least 20 yards downfield, according to ProFootballFocus.com. To put that in perspective, Rodgers was the second-most accurate downfield passer, having completed 50.0 percent (18-of-36).
Tolzien, however, threw five interceptions in 90 attempts. When Rodgers was named NFL MVP in 2011, he threw six interceptions in 552 attempts. Tolzien led the Packers to just 13 points while playing most of the game against Philadelphia, 13 points while starting against the Giants and seven points in two-plus quarters against Minnesota.
"I am a ways from Aaron," Tolzien said.
True, but Tolzien is smart and has a good arm. Those traits don't exactly grow on trees. There is "no question" that he has the goods to be in the NFL, according to new quarterbacks coach and former NFL quarterback Alex Van Pelt.
"You gain confidence from the good plays that you made in the games and you build on that," Tolzien said. "At the same token, you're learning from your mistakes and trying not to make those same mistakes twice."
In a way, Tolzien's inconsistent play should have been expected. In a bizarre season, Tolzien was released by the 49ers and was signed to Green Bay's practice squad before Week 1. All of a sudden, Rodgers sustained a broken collarbone, Seneca Wallace struggled before straining a groin and Tolzien was thrust into an offense in which he'd barely run any of the plays.
"I think I said during the season I was going to wait until after the season to soak in what happened and I did that and realized that it's still the same game that I played when I was in youth football, and it's fun in that regard," Tolzien said. "You go into the offseason and realize how much fun it was to play in a game, and you're really trying to get back to that spot again because that's what you play for. You play for the games and all those experiences."
This offseason, obviously, is invaluable in learning everything from, as he put it, "the ground up." He's learning the playbook the right way. He's learning how to play the position the Packers' way. He has the luxury of time that he didn't have last season. Coach Mike McCarthy called Tolzien a "tireless worker."
That's hardly a surprise, considering Tolzien lived at the 49ers' practice facility — literally, not figuratively.
"You do want to go back and learn the A-B-Cs again because what I've learned is when you step on the field, especially on game day, it's that much faster, so you really do want to know your stuff," he said.
"There's no substitute for game reps. You make a mistake in practice versus making a mistake in a game when there's 80,000 people watching, you truly learn the lesson in a game. With that, though, you're trying to turn the practices into game-like situations so that when the bullets are flying, you're ready to go."
The offseason has been about revamping his game. It's meant big changes and small tweaks with his fundamentals and footwork and release. It's been about soaking up the coaching of McCarthy and Van Pelt like a sponge. It's been about learning from Rodgers' example.
Tolzien's successes have affirmed that he's taken the right approach. That all of those hours studying the playbook and watching film have paid some dividends.
And will pay bigger dividends down the road.
"The biggest thing is confidence," Tolzien said. "That's such a powerful thing. I've heard Aaron say that it's the most important characteristic of a quarterback. So, that's what I take from it. And with that, you still keep working but you gain that confidence."
Green Bay hasn't taken three quarterbacks into the regular season since Rodgers and then-rookies Flynn and Brian Brohm in 2008. So, there's no guarantee that the Packers will take Rodgers, Flynn and Tolzien into 2014. Tolzien is out of practice squad eligibility, so it might be No. 2 or bust.
Tolzien, however, doesn't see it that way. He's not competing with Flynn as much as he's competing with himself. It's about trusting his coaching, trusting his approach and trusting his talent.
"It's taken me time to realize that," Tolzien said, "but I really do believe in that."
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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.