INDIANAPOLIS - Joel Stave’s nose still has a bandage stripped across its bridge. A battle wound from Wisconsin’s bowl game against USC, when a kick to the face left it bloody and broken.
Here was a fitting ending to a beleaguered quarterback’s career. Stave went out a winner in the Holiday Bowl. He couldn’t escape college football without breaking his nose.
There were plenty more bumps during Stave’s four seasons with the Badgers. A career completion percentage under 60 percent. Almost as many interceptions (37) as touchdown passes (48). Those warts won’t be swept under the rug this week. Not at the NFL scouting combine, where each prospect is put under the league’s microscope.
Stave is just glad he got a ticket to Indy.
“I was excited,” Stave said Wednesday in the East Club Lounge at Lucas Oil Stadium. “I was hoping I’d get the chance to come here. So when I got the invite, I was very excited.”
Stave will get more reps than most. He’s a “designated thrower” during on-field drills, which isn’t as cool as it sounds. In short, Stave is on the field to make sure the elite quarterbacks aren’t overextended during drills.
He doesn’t mind the extra passes. He has ideal size at 6-foot-5 and 236 pounds. It's 16 pounds more than he weighed during his senior season, but Stave said his height prevents the extra weight from being a negative.
The goal is to prove his arm won't be a negative, either.
Stave said he reached out to Packers backup quarterback Scott Tolzien, who has earned a career as a backup after being a designated thrower in the combine. Tolzien, a fellow former Badgers quarterback, never crossed paths with Stave in Madison, but they’ve known each other for a while.
Soon after getting his invitation, Stave made the call.
“I talked to him right when they called me and asked if I’d be a thrower,” Stave said. “I called him because I knew he did that, and asked him what he thought about it and just this experiences with it. He was very positive. He said, ‘Anytime you get a chance to throw in front of NFL personnel, it’s a good idea to take it.’”
Stave can’t expect for his first job out of college to stay in Wisconsin. Quarterback is among the positions the Green Bay Packers don’t need to target in this year’s draft. At least not as a draft pick.
General manager Ted Thompson made sure the future was secure behind two-time MVP Aaron Rodgers when he traded up in the fifth round last year to draft UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley. With Tolzien a free agent, Hundley seems primed to become Rodgers’ backup this season.
The Packers have plenty of other areas they need to address this offseason, starting with tight end and linebacker. Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy will lay out their offseason plan — at least bits and pieces of it — when they meet with the media Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
That’s when the combine will really heat up for Packers fans. For Stave, the combine is already plenty intense. He’s happy to be in Indy. Happy to get his shot in front of the pro scouts. His is the underdog story, the unlikely prospect fighting for a career.
“You have a chance to sit down with every team,” Stave said, “and talk through background stuff, your family, where you grew up, what you like to do. I think just being able to get that stuff out of the way, and take some throws in front of NFL personnel, it’s always a good thing when you get to do it.”