Like it or not, Tolzien is playing waiting game

Posted May 06, 2011 @ 12:51 p.m.
Posted By Alex Mayster

Former Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien is in a unique situation.

As the winner of the 2010 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given annually to the nation's most successful senior quarterback, based on their achievements both on and off the field, his name forever will be listed alongside Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer and Matt Ryan.

But after not hearing his name called during the '11 NFL draft, Tolzien now belongs to a different group; one that includes Kurt Warner, Tony Romo and Jeff Garcia — undrafted quarterbacks.

The Badgers' all-time most accurate passer would be happy to have a fraction of the success that any of those aforementioned QBs have achieved at the professional level, but Tolzien is at a disadvantage never seen before in the history of the league: He can't speak with NFL teams because of the ongoing lockout. Thus, he can't sign with a team or begin learning a new system until the league opens for business again.

All Tolzien can do is wait, and try to make the best of the situation. To him, that means remaining in Madison, Wis., and continuing to work out until he can start receiving calls from interested teams.

"There's nothing you can do about it, so it's kind of like, why worry about it," he explained. "The most important thing right now is to control what you can control. And that's being in the best shape possible, being ready to go. Let's say tomorrow the NFL is no longer locked out, you have to be ready to field calls."

The problem is, no one knows when the lockout will come to an end. Not the owners. Not the players. Nobody.

It takes a special type of person to continue to work at such a high level for an opportunity that may or may not present itself. Bears rookie OT Gabe Carimi, who spent two seasons protecting Tolzien's blind side at Wisconsin, thinks the 6-2, 212-pound QB has the personality to make it work.

"He is real dedicated in whatever he's doing," Carimi said. "He's a real accountable guy. He does his schoolwork well. You should see his apartment, his apartment is clean. He does everything right."

Projected to go a bit higher, Carimi was selected by the Bears with the 29th overall pick in the draft. Tolzien was at Carimi's side during his draft-day party when the nerves began to pick up near the end of the first round.

Tolzien had no party. He was at home in Rolling Meadows, Ill., two days later, where he watched Rounds 4-7 with his dad and a couple of friends. His phone started ringing around the seventh round, but he never did see his name pop up on the TV screen.

"What's weird, this year, is usually those talks continue on after the draft but this year, because the NFL is locked out, the minute that last pick is made teams can no longer call you," Tolzien said. "Basically now, all the free agents, we're just waiting for the NFL to get unlocked and teams will start calling us."

Carimi was unable to watch the remainder of the draft with Tolzien, as he was in Chicago meeting with the Bears. Now a member of the only NFL team that invited Tolzien in for a private workout prior to the draft, Carimi said he would do his best to help his good friend land a job with the Bears.

"I don't really know their whole plans, but anyone that has Scott on their team is going to do pretty well," Carimi said. "They're going to have a consistent player behind another great quarterback."

The knock on Tolzien, who turns 24 in early September, has never been his character. NFL scouts have lauded him for his intangibles and have been impressed with his work ethic and football I.Q. The problem has been his smaller-than-preferred size and his limited mobility.

When asked about his NFL potential, Tolzien said that's something for teams to evaluate. But he did say that his résumé [including a 21-5 career record as a starter] speaks for itself.

"I personally feel like I've been a winning quarterback at the college level," Tolzien said. "And I'm an accurate passer (68.1 career passing percentage). I think those are two powerful things."

Time will tell if NFL teams feel the same way. Tolzien said that he has no plans of giving up on his dreams of playing in the league and likely would decline an offer from the United Football League (UFL).

He is set to graduate from Wisconsin in the coming days with a degree in consumer affairs. He spoke of all sorts of options he could pursue when his playing career ended, with the main focus being on coaching. Those plans are for down the road. Currently, Tolzien said he has one goal.

"Right now, I'm going to try and play in the NFL."