Green Bay-area native Cole Van Lanen gets 'one-in-a-million chance' with Packers

Bay Port and University of Wisconsin offensive lineman staying home to start pro career

T/G Cole Van Lanen

GREEN BAY – It's a good thing he answered the phone.

Waiting to get a call Saturday in the late rounds of the NFL Draft, Cole Van Lanen saw a Green Bay number pop up on his phone tagged as "spam likely."

Little did he know it was the call of a lifetime, coming from Lambeau Field just 10 minutes south of his home in Suamico, Wis., where he was gathered with a close-knit group of family and friends to see where his football journey was headed next.

Not far, geographically speaking, as it turns out.

"I answered it and I wasn't even expecting it to be (Brian) Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur," Van Lanen said. "I just couldn't believe it. They said, 'How would you love to be a Packer?' and I was just absolutely stoked."

The Packers drafted Van Lanen, the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Bay Port High School and University of Wisconsin grad, with the first of their two sixth-round picks, No. 214 overall.

Not only were the odds just 1-in-32 he'd get to join the NFL team he grew up watching down the road, but Van Lanen doubted there was much chance the Packers would call after already selecting two offensive linemen in this draft.

"It was just so surreal, super excited, beyond words really," he said.

Van Lanen will find himself amidst some heated competition on Green Bay's offensive line, which now has six draft picks over the past two years.

He's no stranger to that, having had to earn his way in a Badgers program known for churning out NFL offensive linemen.

After a redshirt season and two years as a reserve, Van Lanen started 18 games at left tackle for Wisconsin over the past two seasons, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors from both the media and coaches in 2019 and upping that to first-team recognition from the league's coaches in 2020.

Before his days in Madison, he was a two-time all-state high school player and state champion in the shot put and discus. He also earned all-academic honors in the Big Ten.

While staying close to home to begin his pro career is certainly convenient, it'll also come with an added spotlight. Van Lanen is not concerned about losing any focus, though.

"I wouldn't say (there's) extra pressure," he said. "Going into this, this was a day of my life I'll never forget, but this was just the start and that was the way I was looking at it.

"Yeah, it's the Packers but it doesn't change that."

Take a look at Packers T/G Cole Van Lanen during his college career.

Van Lanen does recall the first Packers game he attended as a kid was a preseason contest against the Falcons when Michael Vick was the Atlanta QB, and he grew up a huge fan of both Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.

As his football career got serious, he took a stronger liking to Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari, and now will get to learn something from the five-time All-Pro first-hand.

"I love watching him play," Van Lanen said. "I watch him every snap, every game. He's kind of like a role model in the O-line world for me because of the way he plays."

Van Lanen continues an impressive line of Green Bay-area talent from recent years that has made its way to the NFL.

In 2019, Green Bay Southwest offensive lineman Max Scharping was taken in the second round by the Texans, and Alec Ingold – a former teammate of Van Lanen's at Bay Port and Wisconsin – made the Raiders as an undrafted free agent. Then last year, Ashwaubenon quarterback James Morgan was drafted in the fourth round by the Jets.

None of them got a shot with the hometown Packers, though, and Van Lanen has every intention of making the most of it.

"This is a one-in-a-million chance and opportunity," he said. "I am so excited to really work my butt off and help this team win a Super Bowl.

"Just to have it from a few miles from where you grew up, this is the team I watched my entire life. To be a part of such a special program, I'm beyond excited, that's for sure."

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