By John Boyle Herald Columnist
SEATTLE — Justin Glenn is a smart kid. He gets that there is a real chance he played his last football game when the Washington Huskies lost to Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl.
But don’t think for a second that Glenn has stopped dreaming.
When the Huskies held their pro day last week, most eyes were fixed on cornerback Desmond Trufant, a likely late first-round pick who may well be the only Husky selected in next month’s NFL draft.
Yet as important as that workout was for Trufant, he and players like him around the country already are in pretty good standing heading into the draft. Yeah, Trufant could end up a bit disappointed if he slides into the second round, but his talent, and the relatively high pick some team is gong to invest in him, means he’ll have a good shot at starting as a rookie, and have multiple years to prove he does or doesn’t belong in the NFL.
For players such as Glenn, however, a couple of hours in the UW’s Dempsey Indoor facility could make the difference between getting a crack at an NFL training camp this summer or starting to look for a “real” job. They’re the players you can easily miss when you focus only on the top talent. Yet all over the country, players nobody talked about before the draft are on their way to being the surprise success stories of the 2013 rookie class.
Will Glenn, who played his prep ball at Kamiak High School, be one of those players? The odds say he won’t, but if Glenn’s five-year UW career taught him anything. it’s that anything can happen.
As a Husky, Glenn sat through a winless season, then earned a starting job as a redshirt freshman only to break his leg five games into the campaign. He then came back and enjoyed a productive final three years. So, why would Glenn give up now when his dream of playing in the NFL, however tough to obtain, is this close?
“Everybody when they’re a kid raises their hand in class and says what they want to be, and mine was a professional football player,” Glenn said. “So I’ve gotten this far; now I’m at the moment where it’s here for me. That’s why I’m just working as hard as I can trying to get there.”
At least nine teams were present at Washington’s pro day, including a large contingent of Seahawks defensive coaches. So for Glenn and so many other college football athletes chasing an NFL dream, days like last Wednesday can be life changers. Glenn said he was more excited than nervous about this chance, and now that it’s over, he’ll keep working out, perhaps attend a few more private workouts, then wait and hope for the best come April.
“People have talked about late-round pickups and stuff, but I can only control what I can control. So I’ve just been working hard these past couple of months,” Glenn said. “I came out here, feel like I did pretty well, so now it’s in their hands. I’m just going to keep working and let the cards play out how they do.”
The best thing Glenn has going for him isn’t the fact he was a starting safety last year, or that he was an honorable mention All-Pacific-12 Conference selection. It’s that he excels on special teams, and even more importantly, he enjoys doing that kind of dirty work. For a bottom-of-the-roster hopeful, there are few things better to have on a resume than the special teams MVP honors Glenn earned for the Huskies in 2012.
“I’m willing to do whatever,” he said. “I’m not a guy who is going to say ‘I just want to do this.’ Put me on kickoff, put me on punt, put me on anything and I’ll go as hard as I can. If they watch the film, they’ll see that. I’m on (all the) special teams. … I’m just a hard worker who’s willing to do whatever and put it all out there for the team.”
Glenn credits former Husky defensive back Roy Lewis with helping to teach him just how valuable special-teams play can be. Lewis, who went undrafted after his final season at Washington, spent his rookie year on the Pittsburgh Steelers’ practice squad. He eventually landed in Seattle, where he made the roster first as a special-teams standout but eventually carved out a significant role for himself on the defense.
“I told Justin and I tell all the young guys: the way in is definitely through special teams,” said Lewis, who served as a special teams co-captain for Seattle in 2010. “If you’re not a first-round draft pick, you’re pretty much going to have to work your way on through special teams. I don’t care who you are, that’s how it’s got to be.”
Lewis, who missed last season because of a knee injury but is healthy know and looking for a new team, sees in Glenn a desire and ability to make it in the NFL regardless of what happens in the draft.
“Absolutely,” Lewis said. “Justin possesses that big time, that’s the thing that stood out for him at the UW. He’s done well for himself, so I’m excited to see what’s in store for him in the next year. It could be very, very good for him.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.