After an anticlimactic end to his football career at the University of Nebraska, Curenski Gilleylen didn’t really know what the future held for him.
A 5-foot-11, 213-pound native of Leander, Texas, Gilleylen began his career with the Cornhuskers as a wide receiver and had his most productive year as a sophomore when he caught 17 passes for 302 yards.
The following year, Gilleylen played in only seven games without a catch before switching to running back as a senior.
After last April’s NFL Draft, Gilleylen received one call to tryout for an NFL team, but declined seemingly ready to take the next step with his degree in civil engineering.
Then, he received a call from the Packers, who signed him to the 90-man roster after trying out during the team’s rookie orientation.
“The way they handled me on the phone, I felt like they were very respectful,” Gilleylen said. “They didn’t try to tell me this was the best place to go. It just sounded like they cared and were going to take care of me while I was up here.”
During his tryout, Gilleylen lined up at wide receiver, running back and defensive back, but settled in with the offense on the perimeter.
There have been some ups-and-downs, but he’s displayed good hands and quickness during practice. During the team’s 21-13 loss to San Diego in the first preseason game, he had one catch for 17 yards.
“I’m really grateful to come up here and play, especially a guy like me who really didn’t play a lot in the latter part of his career,” Gilleylen said. “I feel like this atmosphere they have in Green Bay is definitely if you can play, we’re going to give you opportunities no matter where you come from or how you got here. They’re going to give you an opportunity to show what you can do.”
With 12 receivers on the 90-man roster, the competition at the position is one of the Packers’ fiercest battles. Gilleylen hopes to crack the Packers’ roster with his strong suit: versatility. He took snaps out of the backfield at practice this week.
As the Packers prepare to host the Cleveland Browns in their first preseason game at Lambeau Field today, Gilleylen hopes to continue to show coaches what he has to offer.
“I think it’s definitely an uphill battle for anyone who’s not drafted,” Gilleylen said. “They’ve given them opportunities to show what they can do, and if they prove themselves on the practice field, they’re going to trust them to do it in games, as well.”
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