Vince Kowalski became number 90.
He would definitely settle for being one of 53.
After a spring of tryouts and free-agent mini-camps, Kowalski, a Williamstown High School and Villanova graduate, is getting a chance to live his childhood dream of playing in the National Football League. The offensive lineman signed as a free agent with the Green Bay Packers on Monday, rounding out the team’s 90-man roster that will go to training camp in July.
“It was a shock to me,” Kowalski said from his hotel room in Green Bay following a day of Organized Team Activities, or OTAs, at the Packers’ facility. “This all happened so quickly for me to wind up here. I got a text from my agent (Ed Wasielewski) that they (the Packers) were interested in me, and then I got confirmation. I flew out there on a Sunday, and by Monday night I was signed.”
While it may have appeared to be quick for the 6-foot-4, 305-pound lineman, the last couple months have been a bit of a journey for Kowalski, a four-year starter at Villanova, earning all-Colonial Athletic Conference honors last fall.
“I knew I wasn’t probably going to get drafted,” Kowalski said of the three-day NFL draft held at the end of April. “I thought I might get signed as an undrafted free agent from what I was hearing from the pre-draft camps. I wasn’t sure where I was going to wind up.”
Following the draft, Kowalski had to play the waiting game to see where he would go. After a couple of stints at rookie camps for the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs, he still found himself without a team to call his own.
“I was just a tryout guy,” Kowalski said. “They (the Eagles and Chiefs) were very up front about my chances with them. I just went out there and worked hard and hoped to get noticed.”
Fast forward about a month, and Kowalski is now one of 16 offensive lineman competing to take the field and protect Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Now his days are spent trying to get on the same page as the rest of the linemen in terms of the offense, and also get ready for training camp which begins in late July.
“We start with lifting at 6:30 in the morning,” Kowalski said. “Then we have meetings all morning until practice. We practice two hours and then have more meetings until about 4:30 or 5 o’clock. It’s a very long day.”
A tackle throughout his career, Kowalski has found himself getting more reps in camp at guard, which has been a small shock to the system.
“I was surprised at first,” Kowalski said. “I am getting reps at guard because there is a need at that position. It’s good just to be out on the field getting reps, which is what you need.”
Following the OTAs, which conclude later this week, Kowalski will take part in a three-day minicamp next week and then have off until all 90 players need to report in July. As for what lies ahead for Kowalski, he is optimistic as he enters his first professional camp.
“I think I can make it,” Kowalski said of his chances of making the 53-man roster. “What were the chances of me getting this far? I just know that I have to go out there every day and work as hard as I can and hope that it pays off.”
Williamstown High School product waits in the tunnel before Villanova takes the field prior to an early season game in 2014. (Photo by Mike Shute, SJSD)