New Packers nose tackle Brian Soi has been out of football since June 2008. It wasn't the first time he thought his football career might be over.
As a child, Soi's goal was to play football for BYU. As one of the top-ranked defensive tackles in the nation, Soi could have played college football just about anywhere.
Soi signed to play for the Cougars in February 2003 but was academically ineligible to compete for them. So, he landed at Utah State, where he had to sit out his freshman season to get his grades in order. In 2005, Soi flashed his enormous potential with 4.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a blocked kick.
But BYU was the love that Soi just couldn't kick. He left Utah State and enrolled at Utah Valley State College in hopes of improving his grades enough to play at BYU.
"I was in a real deep hole from Utah State," Soi told Scout.com's BYU site in 2007. "Financially, I just couldn't cut it at UVSC because I was paying for my own classes and my books and I just couldn't do it. It was so frustrating for me and I thought, ‘Man, forget this. I'm just going to go play arena football.'"
Instead, he remained in contact with BYU's coaches, and during the school's 2007 pro day, Soi talked with coaches from a few NFL teams, including the Packers.
Just like that — a year-and-a-half since playing his one and only season for Utah State — Soi's NFL dream had been given new life.
BYU's coaches helped set up a workout for Soi in hopes he'd be selected in the Supplemental Draft. He wasn't drafted, but the Dolphins signed him a day later.
Soi was released among Miami's final cuts in 2007. The Giants signed him in May 2008 but he didn't even last on their roster until training camp.
"I thought I was done after that," Soi told Packer Report on Wednesday after running at Lambeau Field.
So, Soi started life in the "real world," getting a job in telemarketing with a phone company while playing some rugby.
"I was doing a 9-to-5, trying to get what I could do," Soi said.
About a month ago, Soi's agent, Max Hannemann, got a call from the Packers. They wanted Soi to fly to Green Bay for a workout. On Tuesday, Soi was brought back to Green Bay for another workout. That day, he was rewarded with a three-year contract. Terms were not disclosed, but Soi did not receive a signing bonus.
"They liked what they saw," said Soi, who said he was not being pursued by other teams.
Soi said he weighed 357 pounds during his first visit to Green Bay. The Packers told him to lose weight, and he did — he's down to 340. (He's listed at 6-foot-3, 334 on the Packers' roster.) He hopes to be in the 320s for training camp.
Soi adds some depth at nose tackle, a position where Ryan Pickett is the Packers' only experienced player. Soi, who will be battling Fred Bledsoe, Anthony Toribio and, presumably, a draft choice, is excited about the opportunity in Green Bay. He'll be reunited with former Utah State teammate Jarrett Bush and his defensive coordinator in Miami, Dom Capers.
"I've been wanting to play nose tackle for the longest time," he said. "When I was with the Dolphins, they had a 4-3 front. I'm actually more comfortable on the nose. Just line up on the center and cause havoc in the middle. That's what they want me to do, so I'm good with that."
Certainly, Soi faces an uphill battle. He hasn't played in a game that counts for four years, and no games of any sort since the 2007 preseason.
"I'm just grateful for the opportunity that they gave me," Soi said. "It's cool, man. I'm just going to bust my butt and try to help the team in any way I can."
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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. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport