Motivated by Draft Slide, Stoneburner Hopes to Stick in Green Bay
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Jake Stoneburner wasn’t harboring any bitterness on Tuesday. He understands why some NFL teams wouldn’t want to take a flyer on a guy coming off a subpar senior season and two knee injuries.
Photo by Jim Davidson
That doesn’t mean he won’t use it as fuel when he steps on the practice field in Green Bay later this month.
“Teams didn’t pick you for a reason and you’ve got to figure out what that is and you’ve got to take that and critique it and take it up with you to Green Bay, show teams they made a mistake in not drafting you,” Stoneburner said while standing inside the weight room at Ohio State’s Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
“You don’t want to act too crazy up there and act like you’re some nut job that wishes he’d have been drafted, but you definitely have to have a chip on your shoulder.”
One of the main reasons Stoneburner didn’t hear his named called during the NFL’s seven-round draft last month was a torn meniscus he suffered during his senior season at Ohio State. It was the second one in two years for the tight end out of Dublin, Ohio and some teams simply weren’t willing to take the risk.
Especially for a guy who only put up average numbers when he was healthy.
“A lot of the teams said it was all right but some wouldn’t even talk to me because of it,” said Stoneburner, a three-year starter for the Buckeyes.
“I don’t feel pain and I’m able to run, it’s just some doctors thought it looked torn and some didn’t. Some teams weren’t willing to take the waiver on my knee, especially because I’ve torn it two years in a row now.”
Stoneburner missed Ohio State’s Gator Bowl appearances two years ago because of a knee injury, but he didn’t show many side effects from the injury during his Pro Day workout at Ohio State back in March.
He said the injury was so minute, some doctors couldn’t tell if it was still torn or if it had already healed from the surgery. The 6-4, 250-pound Stoneburner caught 16 passes for 269 yards and four touchdowns last season playing mostly wide receiver.
That was the position he played at Dublin Coffman High School, but Ohio State recruited him to play tight end at the college level. That’s where he will make a living if he’s going to play professionally, but the biggest benefit of not being drafted was the fact Stoneburner could find a system that fit his skillset.
“It’s exactly what I wanted to do,” Stoneburner said of playing in Mike McCarthy’s Green Bay offense.
“I’m going to have to be able to block, but I think I’m going out there and if I show my receiver skills that will hopefully make them say, ‘We have to hold on to him.’ ”
That’s the hope of every undrafted free agent, but the Packers already have six tight ends listed on their official roster. That includes returning starter Jermichael Finley, along with key reserves D.J. Williams (Arkansas) and Andrew Quarless (Penn State).
The good news for Stoneburner is that he fits what the Packers are looking for if they are going to carry an extra tight end on the active roster this coming season.
“They have a lot of tight ends, but they play a lot. Last year they had six on the 53-man roster, so it’s there for me to make it,” he said.
“There are no Jake Ballards walking around at 6-7, 280. I’m actually bigger than two of the guys on their depth chart. It’s a perfect fit. They run the type of offense that will suit me well and that’s what I was looking for.”
It doesn’t hurt Stoneburner that he will get a chance to catch passes form one of the game’s best.
“I wanted to make sure I had a set quarterback that is known for throwing the ball,” Stoneburner said.
“I’ve never really been able to have that. In high school I kind of had that, and I was able to thrive in that. So when I was looking at free agency, I wanted a set quarterback that’s going to be there for a while that I know can throw the ball around.
“He just happens to be pretty good at it.”
That quarterback is Aaron Rodgers. The 29-year old out of California just might be the best there is when it comes to throwing the football. He is a three-time Pro Bowler, a Super Bowl MVP and the highest paid player in NFL history.
It also doesn’t hurt that Stoneburner is heading to one of the most storied and beloved NFL franchises in the history of the game.
“I wish my name would have gotten called at the right time, but it is what it is,” Stoneburner said.
“I've heard that Green Bay is the Ohio State of the NFL, so I don’t mind that. I think I ended up in the best possible situation.”
Now he just has to make it stick.
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