GREEN BAY – Max Scharping grew up seven miles from Lambeau Field in nearby Allouez. His high school, Green Bay Southwest, was only a short five-minute drive from the stadium.
A three-time All-Fox River Classic Conference selection, Scharping started on both sides of the ball for all but one game over his final three seasons with the Trojans.
Playing for former Packers linebacker Bryce Paup his first three years, Scharping solidified himself as one of the area’s top college recruits during perhaps the most successful run in the history of Southwest’s football program.
Next month, the Northern Illinois tackle looks to join an even more exclusive group of Green Bay metro area football players to be drafted into the NFL.
After speaking with Packers offensive line coach Adam Stenavich at the NFL Scouting Combine, Scharping smiles while acknowledging it’s no secret who the family wants to draft him.
“It would probably be a dream come true, honestly,” said Scharping of the prospects of starting his NFL career in his hometown. “I think my cousin would go cry. It would probably mean even more for my family, especially because then I would be close for games. I think my family would even be more excited about it.”
Green Bay isn’t known as a hotbed for NFL talent. Scharping and Wisconsin fullback Alec Ingold are among only a handful of Green Bay metro players who have received a combine invite over the last decade, joining Kahlil McKenzie (2018) and Mike Taylor (2013).
McKenzie, now a guard for the Kansas City Chiefs, was a high school teammate of Scharping’s before he moved to California following his sophomore year after his father, Reggie, was hired as the Oakland Raiders’ general manager.
A sixth-round pick out of Tennessee a year ago, McKenzie was on Kansas City’s roster all season but never suited up for a game. Once either McKenzie or Scharping does, it’s believed he’ll be the first Southwest alum to play in the NFL.
Scharping’s time with Paup also was enlightening. The former NFL defensive player of the year transformed the Trojans’ program, leading Southwest to its first back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2011 and 2012.
The high-water mark came when the Trojans earned their first trip to the WIAA Division 2 state semifinals in 2011. It was a monumental achievement for a program that had only one playoff win in school history before Paup’s arrival in 2007.
“He really set a standard of excellence at Southwest, weight room wise, just coming to practice on time, all that,” Scharping said. “And that helped going into college and I think it helped guys just in their lives, in general. … He was building men more than even football players. I think that was very special.”
As a senior in 2013, Scharping played through a torn labrum for all but three games. He redshirted his freshman year at Northern Illinois before starting 53 consecutive games in college and playing all 998 offensive snaps as a redshirt senior this past year.
A three-time All-Mid-American Conference selection, Scharping played both right tackle and right guard during his first two years on campus before moving to left tackle. His parents didn’t miss a single game, home or away.
Yet, it was only after his first all-conference nod that Scharping began to sense the NFL was a realistic possibility.
“I’d played against big opponents but obviously you don’t know what people are thinking about you,” Scharping said. “I had heard some feedback, my coach heard some feedback and he relayed that to me and it kind of lit a fire to compete at an even higher level in my last two years.”
A hamstring injury forced the 6-foot-6, 327-pound offensive lineman out of running the 40 in Indianapolis, but Scharping was cleared to perform the other drills.
Knowing the dearth of Green Bay-area players who have made it to the NFL, Scharping didn’t take the opportunity for granted to showcase his skills in Indianapolis. With NIU’s pro day on Wednesday, Scharping is also hopeful he and Ingold might have given the Packers enough reason to warrant a local pro day.
Every April, NFL teams are permitted to bring in players who attend a college, or reside, in a club’s “metropolitan” area for workouts without counting toward its official 30 pre-draft visits. Since the University of Wisconsin isn’t a “contiguous suburb” of Green Bay, the Packers rarely conduct them.
However, this year might be a different story. If it happens, Scharping would love nothing more than to work out for the team he and his family grew up cheering for.
“Green Bay might actually get one this year with me and Alec and I think there’s a kicker (Spenser Thompson-Meyers) up at St. Norbert, as well, right there in Green Bay,” Scharping said. “It’s pretty exciting to be here and to be from a town like Green Bay, where football is part of the culture of growing up there, so it’s very special.”