He's the center of attention this week, quite possibly the most important player on the field. And he was playing college football at Ohio State nine months ago.
Safe to say, there will be some nerves for Green Bay Packers rookie center Corey Linsley as he prepares for his first professional start at 7:30 tonight against the Seattle Seahawks. In the deafening noise of CenturyLink Field, Linsley will handle communication along the offensive line while the Packers run their no-huddle offense.
A lot of responsibility falls on his shoulders. It's hard to see how the Packers can win their opener without Linsley playing like a seasoned veteran in his first game. Is he feeling the pressure? Press-Gazette Media spoke with Linsley from the locker room following the Packers' final preseason game last week against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Here are 10 questions, with 10 answers from the rookie offensive lineman.
Crazy week for you?
Linsley: Oh yeah, absolutely. It's been a freaking whirlwind. It's exciting. I'm finally starting to release a little bit and calm down.
What first went through your head when you found out JC Tretter was out, and you're the guy?
Linsley: I was nervous, to be honest with you, because I hadn't taken any reps with the ones. I was most nervous for how these guys would receive me and what these guys would be like — T.J. (Lang) and Josh (Sitton) and Bryan (Bulaga) and Dave (Bakhtiari) — but they've been nothing but help to me. They've been nothing but great teammates, and I felt that since that moment it's been a 180. I feel like I couldn't ask for better linemates.
What was it like running out of the tunnel at Lambeau Field for the first time knowing that you're a starter for the Green Bay Packers?
Linsley: I mean, it's an honor. That's another reason why I was nervous at first, is because this program wasn't founded 10 years ago. This isn't an add-on team. I mean, this is the Green Bay Packers. This is the real deal, you know? We win here. I want to be a part of that. The last thing I would want to do is be a liability. All that nerves, you can work all that away. It's just getting more reps mentally, more reps physically. You can work all that away, but I want to win with this program. I want to be a part of something great.
It would be a challenge for any rookie center to step in and start immediately. How much more challenging is it to keep up the tempo of the no-huddle with the first-team offense?
Linsley: Yeah, I feel like I'm in shape. I don't necessarily think that, the rate of which they want the calls is really no different than coming out of the huddle. They want the call right out of the huddle, so for a no-huddle you're just not huddling. It's the same. They give you the play, and they want the call right after you get the play. It's just about being in shape, really. I feel like I'm in shape, and I can deal with it.
What do you want to get better at before seeing Seattle?
Linsley: I just want to prove to these guys that I'm on my mental game, prove to these guys that I know Seattle just as well as they do, and prove to my teammates that I'm somebody that they can count on. I think that will really only be truly proven in the game, but regardless I still want to come out of this week knowing Seattle as well as I can.
Different test at home than next week on the road. What did you want to get out of your finale preseason tuneup?
Linsley: I really wanted to get out of it my ability to get up to the line, make the call and kind of run the show from that standpoint. I felt like I did that. Other than that, I think that I probably had a little bit better, different techniques, schemes here and there. That's really what I wanted to get, and I feel like I did get a little bit better.
You've been in some big stadiums, big road environments in the Big Ten. Have you thought at all about what it's going to be like to have your first NFL road start at CenturyLink Field?
Linsley: Oh yeah, I think about it all the time. I'm excited about it. It's, you know, regardless one way or another, it's going to be a heck of an experience and an amazing opportunity for me to prove my worth. I'm excited about it.
Has Aaron Rodgers taken you under his wing, shared any advice with you?
Linsley: He's told me it's going to be all right, and that he and Josh and T.J. are three amazing resources that I can use at any time. He knows that the best way to win is to have the best guy on the field, and they maximize myself. I want to be the best option for center right now, so they're doing everything they can to help me.
How much have guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang helped you with your transition to the first-team offensive line?
Linsley: They've been great. It's not the on-the-field stuff, it's the off-the-field anxiety, emotion and everything that's really the struggle just in general, just thinking about it. Doing it is not necessarily, we all play football for a reason. They've helped a lot with off-the-field, just calming me down and getting me mentally prepared.
What do Sitton and Lang do to help you stay relaxed and focused?
Linsley: They give me confidence, and they help me out with the calls. The more I know, the less I have to worry. The more I understand the offense, the less I have to worry about screwing up. They just have my back all the time, and if I ever have questions they're there and everything. Those are just little ways that they help.