GREEN BAY – Lucas Patrick has been in this spot a time or two before during his five-plus seasons with the Packers.
A week after making a spot start at center against Cincinnati in place of an injured Josh Myers, Patrick was pressed into action four plays into last Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears after Myers exited with a knee injury.
In a matter of seconds, Patrick went from an onlooker on the Soldier Field sideline to staring into the eyes of one of the most formidable defensive fronts the NFL has to offer. His job was to not only keep the pocket clean for quarterback Aaron Rodgers but also relay the calls to a young offensive line in a hostile road environment.
Once again, Patrick was up to the task as he and the Packers' offensive line pushed, pummeled and plowed the way to a 24-14 win over in Chicago for Green Bay's fifth consecutive victory.
Rodgers, one of Patrick's biggest champions over the last six years, threw for two touchdowns and scrambled for another, while running backs Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon combined for 135 yards on just 24 carries (5.6 yards per attempt).
What could have spelled disaster for Green Bay's offense ended with Patrick grading out highest among the team's offensive linemen, according to Head Coach Matt LaFleur.
"He's a guy that you can always count on," LaFleur said. "I know I was asked about how many reps that he got with our ones last week. The number was zero. I went back and looked at it. Certainly, he gets a lot of reps in practice but the majority of it was with the scout team. That just shows you what kind of person, player he is and how he prepares."
That's kind of been the story for Patrick since the former Duke standout joined the Packers following a successful tryout at the team's rookie minicamp in 2016. Since then, Patrick has gone from a feelgood undrafted story to a savvy veteran who's played in 62 regular-season games with 23 starts.
Astonishingly, only Rodgers, kicker Mason Crosby, left tackle David Bakhtiari, and receivers Randall Cobb and Davante Adams have been with the organization longer than Patrick and fellow 2016 arrivals Kenny Clark and Dean Lowry.
Patrick has built his NFL resume with a blue-collar work ethic, scrappiness and sheer willpower. After playing primarily guard for the Blue Devils, the 6-foot-3, 313-pound offensive lineman picked up center early on in Green Bay, and that homegrown versatility has made Patrick invaluable at a thankless position.
"A lot of value when you can plug a guy in who can play … the three positions inside, both guards and the center," Rodgers said. "The backup center spot has always been a guaranteed roster spot. It just has to be because that role is so important.
"He's a tough, physical, smart player who, when he's riding with confidence, can be an elite player at center, I really feel like that. Love the kid."
Patrick started 17 games (including playoffs) at the two guard spots a year ago, playing a career-high 939 offensive snaps in the regular season that ranked third on the Packers' offense behind Rodgers and Pro Bowl left guard Elgton Jenkins.
The past summer, with the second-round pick Myers supplanting All-Pro Corey Linsley at center, Patrick competed with rookie fourth-round pick Royce Newman and Jon Runyan for the other two interior spots at guard.
Patrick prevailed over Runyan at left guard at the end of training camp and started the opener in New Orleans before sustaining a concussion that sidelined him for most of practice the following week, opening the door for Runyan to start against Detroit.
Patrick kept his wits about him and focused on his next opportunity, which came in the form of his first career start at center against the Bengals after a finger issue sidelined Myers.
"I just have a mentality that I won't be outworked and I'm not going to let this opportunity go by without maximizing it," Patrick said. "That camp I learned a lot about myself and resiliency and being a good teammate. Because at the end of the day, if our best five are out there and that's not myself, then my new role is to get those best five ready to go by challenging them, or even challenging our defense on scout team."
Kenny Clark can speak to that. The Packers' Pro Bowl defensive lineman has spent the past few seasons squaring off against Patrick on the practice field. When asked about Patrick's tenacity, Clark said, "He's a guy that you take a play off on him, he's going to dump you."
While his scrappiness is always appreciated, Patrick won over Rodgers with his football IQ and attention to detail. The two also have developed a friendship that goes well beyond football, highlighted by the duo getting together every Thursday for a special pancake breakfast in the team's cafeteria.
It was a ritual for years among Rodgers, Patrick and some other Packers veterans, but the business of football recently has left Rodgers and Patrick as the last men standing.
On the field, Patrick will have an important part to play in the coming weeks with LaFleur confirming Monday that Myers could miss some games. The rookie second-round pick has yet to practice this week.
Patrick is ready for whatever role awaits him Sunday against the Washington Football Team. That's comforting to Rodgers, who has all the confidence in the world in one of the Packers' most battle-tested next men up.
"You know he's going to be in the right position at all times and doing exactly what he's supposed to be doing and battle and scrap and claw and fight as hard as he can," Rodgers said.
"So, love playing with a guy like Lucas Patrick. There's not a specific value you can put on that because the role that he plays can be priceless at times."