Sebetic gets chance with his favorite team
Kyle Sebetic was waiting for his phone to ring when an email popped into his inbox a few months ago.
It came from his agent, Ronke Champion, who was forwarding him information about the NFL's first-ever veteran combine that was going to be held in Phoenix at the same time as the league's annual meeting.
Sebetic, a Pleasant Prairie native and Kenosha Tremper high school alumnus, had been training at EFT Sports Performance in Highland Park, Ill., since the New York Giants released him from their practice squad midway through last season.
Suddenly, here was his shot at another opportunity.
The 6-foot, 197-pound defensive back filled out the necessary paperwork and submitted his online application. Shortly thereafter, Sebetic was informed he was one of the roughly 100 players who were accepted out of a pool of roughly 2,000.
"My agent was still talking to teams all offseason, just being patient and hanging in there, and waiting for another opportunity," Sebetic said. "It couldn't have come at a better time for me. I was just ready to go."
A four-year starting cornerback at Dayton, Sebetic caught the eye of a few teams that wanted to bring him in for a visit after the combine. Before he could hit the recruiting trail, however, a got a call Tuesday morning from a team he hadn't spoken to in Phoenix: the Green Bay Packers.
Sebetic didn't speak to any of Green Bay's representatives in Arizona, but the team sounded serious. So he made the three-hour drive north, took a physical and was offered a two-year deal with his childhood team, becoming one of 10 combine participants to sign an NFL contract.
"I tried to not to tell anybody until it was officially done," Sebetic said. "Until I signed the contract, I didn't want everybody freaking out too bad. But when I did sign, everybody was just completely losing their minds. My phone was ringing off the hook. My grandparents were going crazy. My parents were going crazy. It was cool. It was just really cool to see how they reacted to it."
In many ways, the road to Green Bay reflected his football journey. He was a captain at Tremper his senior year, but didn't attract a lot of Division I attention outside of Dayton. Only 160 pounds when he arrived on campus, Sebetic lived in the weight room during his redshirt freshman year.
When the Flyers recruited Sebetic, they gave him the choice of playing either receiver or cornerback, the two positions where he starred at Tremper. He settled on defense where he played in 40 career games with 206 tackles (nine for a loss), five interceptions and 28 breakups.
Sebetic went undrafted and unsigned last year before getting a tryout at the Chicago Bears' rookie orientation. A few weeks later, the Giants signed him to their offseason roster. In New York, Sebetic grew close with a few teammates, including safety Antrel Rolle.
The friendship proved beneficial when coaches told Sebetic they were going to move him from cornerback to safety right before training camp. He had a lot of catching up to do after arriving midway through the offseason program.
Rolle's tutelage and encouragement helped. The three-time Pro Bowler relayed a lot of his own experiences as a former cornerback who made the safety switch in 2008 when he was with the Arizona Cardinals.
"When I was kind of going through all that stuff in New York, he helped me out a lot with how to handle that and everything," Sebetic said. "He kind of taught me some things, tricks that he had learned."
Sebetic played in all four preseason games, but was released in the final cuts. He kept working out, but also started looking for work outside of football. A biology major at Dayton, Sebetic was on the verge of picking up a second-shift job in a lab at a hospital in Kenosha when the Giants summoned him back on the practice squad.
He spent one week in New York before he was released again because of injuries. The Giants told him to stay ready, so instead of going back to the hospital, Sebetic kept working out in hopes of another chance.
Back at EFT Sports Performance, Sebetic trained with two of his future Packers teammates in linebacker Nate Palmer and defensive lineman Bruce Gaston, both of whom grew up in Chicago.
"I came back and went back to the same gym I've been training at," Sebetic said. "I was going to start working, but then everything came up with the practice squad and then the combine, so I just decided to stay fully focused on all of this."
The idea of a veteran combine had its share of naysayers who wondered what the upside was to testing unemployed players. With offseason rosters expanded to 90, any of the 32 teams could afford to sign the castaways at any time.
The Packers have developed a reputation for keeping a close eye on unsung prospects. Before Sebetic, their only two outside signings this offseason have been punter Cody Mandell and inside linebacker Josh Francis, who most recently played in the Indoor Football League.
Packers general manager Ted Thompson was at the veteran combine hoping to find a gem.
"That was like 7 o'clock in the morning to 6 o'clock at night, so it wore me out," Thompson deadpanned.
Thompson has a good track record with overlooked talent. Another safety, Chris Banjo, went unsigned for an entire year before the Packers brought him in at the start of training camp in 2013 and he wound up making the 53-man roster.
Now, Sebetic hopes it's his turn. With his family and community howling in excitement, he's ready to make the most of it when he reports for the start of the offseason program April 20.
"I didn't really expect to end up in Green Bay, but I can't be more excited and happy that I am," Sebetic said. "It's the team I grew up following. The team I grew up liking. I've been to games at Lambeau. I've been to Green Bay and seen the facilities a ton of times as a kid. It's just cool to know I'm going to be there and be a part of that.
"It's all happened so fast this last week that it hasn't all sunk in yet. But I'm just really excited to get up there and start working and be a part of it."
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.
Veteran combine signings to date
Buccaneers: TE/FB Emmanuel Ogbuehi and C Ben Gottschalk
Cardinals: WRs Nathan Slaughter and Ifeanyi Momah
Chargers: G Michael Huey
Colts: DB Deveron Carr
Lions: LB Brandon Copeland
Packers: DB Kyle Sebetic
Vikings: QB Mike Kafka and DE Caesar Rayford