By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – After a stellar career with the University of Pennsylvania, Greg Van Roten is trying to make a name for himself in the NFL. The second-year pro is in position to emerge this season as a key offensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers.
A three year starter and All-Ivy tackle at Penn, the 6’3″, 303-pound Van Roten has shown versatility at the pro level.
“I’ve been playing the interior three, mostly center, a little bit of both guards,” Van Roten tells KYW Newsradio. “And then first preseason game I actually got some snaps at right tackle, so that was a little bit different, going back to my college days.”
It is a big jump from the Ivy League to the NFL, and Van Roten says it didn’t take long as a rookie in 2012 to realize just how big.
“I think our first scrimmage,” Van Roten says. “We had, like, a family night thing just in the middle of training camp last summer. It was a scrimmage . . and there were 63,000 people here watching it. That was the most I’ve ever played in front of and that was just amazing for me.”
Van Roten started the 2012 regular season on the practice squad, eventually got promoted to the Green Bay active roster and appeared in seven games as a rookie.
“I think I’m more comfortable than I was last year,” Van Roten says. “Because last year I got here the day before camp started and I was unfamiliar with the system, didn’t really know anybody on the team. I was just trying to keep my head above water. This year, I had a whole offseason to learn the playbook, learn a new position (center) and I’ve been able to really parlay that into, I think, a pretty solid training camp so far.”
If Van Roten can prove solid at center, it could really cement his spot on the roster as a top interior line back-up. He says it is a challenging position.
“It’s a lot different, especially going from college playing tackle, moving inside professionally where everyone is bigger, faster, stronger,” Van Roten says. “And you’re kind of the tip of the spear at center, so you’ve got to know what everyone’s doing and you have to make all the calls and you’ve got to get the ball back to the quarterback. So it’s a lot faster, a lot more stressful. But I like it more and more each snap.”
While the focus is on the NFL these days, Van Roten hasn’t forgotten about his time at Penn.
“I keep in touch with a lot of the guys I played with, a lot of guys that are still there, especially the coaching staff,” Van Roten says.
Van Roten and the Packers play their third preseason game on Friday night when they host Seattle.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.