He walks the sidelines on game day like any other defensive line and strength coach would for a Division III program, but Drew Vanderlin is not your typical coach.
On October 17th Vanderlin was added to the Green Bay Packers practice squad as a defensive end. However, the NFL changes quickly, and Vanderlin was subsequently released on October 23rd.
When Vanderlin got the call to play, he was shocked.
“I haven’t heard from them since training camp ended, so I thought that my chances of playing again were done, but when they called I was extremely excited,” Vanderlin said.
Vanderlin played college football at Michigan Tech. In his four-year career he totaled 117 tackles and 20 sacks, only 1.5 shy of the school record.
During his short time with the Packers, Vanderlin met some interesting people in the organization.
“The most interesting people I’ve met during my experience with the Packers would have to be the defensive line as a whole,” Vanderlin said. “They are true professionals, and in my short time there they taught me a lot.”
Vanderlin pointed out Ryan Pickett as a person that he really respected while there. “To be able to learn from guys like that was an amazing experience.”
As a member of the practice squad, Vanderlin participated in almost everything the members of the regular roster would do. “You go to the same meetings, you’re in the weight room together, and you practice together,” Vanderlin said.
“The only difference is during the team portion of practice, the practice squad players are on the ‘look team,’” Vanderlin said. “The week I was there, we were playing St. Louis, so we had to simulate the Rams defense for our offense.”
How did Vanderlin end up at UWSP? Head coach Tom Journell has a lot to do with that.
After competing in the Packers rookie orientation, Vanderlin knew that he wanted to pursue a career in coaching, and UWSP was just putting together a new staff.
“Coach Vanderlin interviewed in July, and right away I knew I wanted to hire him,” Journell said. “He has energy, football intelligence, charisma and is just a people person.”
Now back at UWSP, Vanderlin knows that his brief stint with the Packers doesn’t mean the end of his career but possibly the beginning.
“After this past week, I think anything is possible,” Vanderlin said. “But no matter what happens I will be happy.”
Journell is happy that Vanderlin is back on the coaching staff but knows it may not be for long. “He could get called back next week. You just never know,” Journell said.
Vanderlin will continue to strive for playing in the NFL, but he really enjoys coaching.
“Coaching is my passion, and helping young people develop into not only great athletes but good people is my ultimate goal,” Vanderlin said. “I’ve had so many coaches who have helped me get to where I am today, and I want to be able to give back like they did.”
Either way, Vanderlin knows that he has support here in Stevens Point, and he appreciates that.
“Stevens Point is a great community that I am happy to be a part of,” Vanderlin said. “The support that I have gotten from not only the football team but the entire athletic department has been amazing.”