GREEN BAY – Tim Boyle’s eyes were opened to the reality of cut-down day soon after the Packers quarterback woke up on Saturday morning.
Before the undrafted rookie out of Eastern Kentucky even rolled out of bed, Boyle already had text messages piling up in his phone from friends and teammates who had received the bad news on the NFL’s most anxiety-filled day of the year.
Fortunately for Boyle, he didn’t have any missed calls. Neither did his teammate, Alex Light, a rookie offensive lineman out of Richmond. As the two rode out most of the day together, the phone never was more than a few inches from their side.
“I woke up in the morning to a text saying a couple of my friends got cut, so that’s when it kind of got real for me,” Boyle said. “I was just hanging out with a bunch of guys all day, probably checking my phone every 30 seconds.”
The call never came, as Boyle and Light were two of four undrafted rookies who survived cut-down day to make the Packers’ initial 53-man roster, along with James Madison safety Raven Greene and Illinois linebacker James Crawford.
Boyle and Light still had to stay preoccupied to endure the silence. Joined by a few other Packers teammates, including center Austin Davis, the two ate breakfast and snuck in a workout at Lambeau Field to clear their mind.
Everything they did was intended to tune out the looming cuts, which began trickling in as the 3 p.m. CT deadline drew close.
“There were five of us, and one at a time, they started getting calls,” Light recalled. “All of a sudden, it was myself and Tim Boyle left. We were like, ‘Oh, crap.’ We didn’t hear anything, so we went out to lunch to try to take our mind off of it.”
Boyle and Light made their way to nearby Texas Roadhouse to grab a steak and wait out the afternoon. Minutes felt like hours, as the two awaited their fate.
The clock eventually struck 3 p.m. and neither player’s phone rang. Two minutes after the deadline, Boyle finally received a call from his agency to inform him he’d made the 53.
Admittedly, it was a “very emotional” moment for Boyle. A former Connecticut High School Coaches’ Association Player of the Year, Boyle chose to stay home and play at UConn in 2013.
While Boyle started as a true freshman, injuries, setbacks and coaching changes were a common theme during his first three seasons with the Huskies before he ultimately transferred to Eastern Kentucky for his senior year.
Boyle came to Green Bay looking to show he had what it takes to be an NFL quarterback after signing as a college free agent in the spring. This summer, he put it on film in demonstrating good poise in the pocket and natural arm strength on his way to earning a place on Green Bay’s roster.
“It’s unreal,” said Boyle of making the 53. “Never in a million years did I think it would be a reality to play behind Aaron Rodgers. I always thought I had the ability to play in the NFL, but to learn from such a great quarterback in such a great organization, I’m truly, truly blessed.”
A three-year starter, Light (6-5, 309) played both tackle and guard at Richmond. He also took reps at center in the pre-draft process, with many NFL teams projecting him as an interior lineman at the next level.
Then, Light had a conversation with Packers offensive line coach James Campen, who told him he liked him at tackle during the team’s rookie orientation camp.
That spot turned out to be Light’s path to the roster, making him the first Spider to crack the Packers’ active roster since Paris Lenon in 2002.
“I went the whole offseason and then training camp playing nothing but tackle and then the majority of that was at left – that threw me for a loop,” Light said. “But, you know, I just went out there, tried to perform to the best of my ability and here I am.”
The script flips now for Boyle, who knows reps will be difficult to come by in the regular season. His job now is to aid Aaron Rodgers in whatever way he can, while also providing competitive scout-team reps for the Packers’ starting defense.
Although Boyle knows the work is far from over, he does feel some small sense of satisfaction after overcoming the odds as an undrafted rookie trying to lay claim to an NFL roster spot.
As nerve-wrecking as Saturday was, an opportunity to live the NFL dream made it well worth the wait.
“If you look at the big picture, even in life, it’s overwhelming,” Boyle said. “If I just learn the offense, I don’t turn the ball over and show them I can play sound football, then I’m going to put myself in an opportunity for them to keep me. Being confident is one thing, but being smart and understanding your situation is another thing.”