Packers reward Gerhart's patience with promotion

Weston Hodkiewicz
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Packers center Garth Gerhart snaps to backup quarterback Scott Tolzien.

Garth Gerhart waited more than two years for the phone call he received last week, informing him of his promotion to the Green Bay Packers' active roster.

Since entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent, all the 6-foot-1, 310-pound center has known is life on the practice squad and a 0-for-3 record in trying to make an NFL roster coming out of training camp.

His journey started with the Cleveland Browns in 2012. When their 5-11 season ended, Gerhart signed onto the Green Bay Packers' practice squad for the playoffs, partially because of the Browns' coaching and front-office uncertainty.

Gerhart, 25, returned to Green Bay for training camp in 2013, but didn't make the roster. Following cut downs, he signed onto Carolina's practice squad for a week until the Panthers decided they needed a tackle instead of an interior lineman.

He had workouts in New York and Kansas City during a month-long layoff before re-signing to the Packers' practice squad on Oct. 10 where he spent the final 13 weeks of the season.

Although Gerhart didn't technically make the Packers' roster out of camp this year, he was promoted before last week's opener in Seattle when JC Tretter was placed on temporary injured reserve.

"It's kind of taxing after a while, but when you're sitting around, you'll go anywhere," Gerhart said. "It's obviously exciting. I've been working for what? Three years now. It's always a great feeling and stuff like that. I told my family and they were excited for me. My brother was excited for me."

Gerhart's older brother is Jacksonville running back Toby Gerhart, who was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy following his senior year at Stanford in 2009. He's also been his younger brother's biggest fan.

When news finally traveled the Packers promoted Garth, it was difficult to decipher which Gerhart brother was more excited by the news.

"He was super exited for me. Every year, he's always hoping and praying I make it," Garth said. "He plays a little different position, but he told me to be ready. He told me even when I was on practice squad to preparing like I was going to be playing. You want to know everything. If they ask you a question, you don't want to be like, 'Oh, I don't know that.' You want to them to have confidence in you so if something does happen they'll put you in."

Gerhart didn't play last week, but was active as the backup to rookie Corey Linsley at center. Upon his promotion, he signed a two-year contract worth $930,000 if he stays on the roster.

His first two seasons in the NFL made for a long road, but it's all worth it to suit up on Sunday.

"If you lose something and you come back and you have an opportunity to make it right, you make the most of that opportunity and he's certainly did that," Packers offensive line coach James Campen said.

"He's improved a ton. It's a credit to him. Here is a guy who it's his third year going at it and made a game-day roster for the first time. I'm extremely proud of him." and follow him on Twitter @WesHod.

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