The longer fullback John Kuhn remains unsigned as a free agent, the more the Green Bay Packers could look for a younger replacement at the position.
Perhaps that player is Hunter Charneski, a Green Bay native that's been in contact with the Packers in the run-up to May's NFL Draft.
"Their director of player personnel Eliot Wolf, me and him have been exchanging emails, and he's extended an invitation for me to come in for a private workout," said Charneski in an interview with Cheesehead TV. "They call it local pro days for anybody that lives or went to college within 25 miles of the facility."
The path to the NFL isn't going to be an easy one for Charneski. He's been a fullback for all of about 15 weeks, ever since his senior season ended at Grand Valley State, the Division II football powerhouse that produced Charles Johnson, a seventh round draft choice of the Packers last season.
Charneski played his entire college career on defensive side of the football as a lineman, making 85 tackles including 12 for a loss as a member of the Lakers. He said he's always been a defensive guy at heart, but in the back of his mind felt his best position was at fullback, where he played in high school and was being recruited to play by Division I schools.
At 6' 1" and 240 lbs., Charneski knew his future as a professional football player probably wouldn't be on the defensive line, so he dove head first into the biggest transformation of his life. For the past several weeks he's been working out at D1 sports performance facility in Green Bay owned by Packers all-time leading rusher Ahman Green.
"Everything to make me more fluid in my hips, because it's a big transition," said Charneski of his workout routine. "Not only am I changing positions, but on the completely other side of the ball. We're really focusing on ball skills. I catch balls every day, working on handoffs, everything. We're just trying to put me in the most difficult position possible, so that when I come like I was last Thursday in front of scouts, it's just second nature."
Last Thursday was the date of Eastern Michigan's pro timing day, to which Charneski was invited. In front of several NFL teams, he was put through all the drills done at the Combine—the 40-yard dash, bench press, jumps and shuttles—as well as position drills.
For someone that hasn't played fullback since high school, the on-field drills have been one of the most challenging parts of this process for Charneski. He's also marketing himself as a potential H-back and as such, displaying a comfort level with the football in his hands has been of utmost importance.
"My hands were definitely rusty about 10, 15 weeks ago when I started this process, but at the pro day, I caught the most balls out of anybody––I was the only fullback working out but among the running backs––and I think that says something," said Charneski. "So I think my hands have come a long way."
While at the Eastern Michigan pro day, Charneski had the opportunity to speak to scouts from the Falcons, Lions, Giants, Bengals and Packers, and he's not done yet. Next weekend, he'll be attending the NFL's Regional Combine in Indianapolis, on Apr. 11 he'll be taking part in Grand Valley's own pro day and finally working out at the local pro day hosted by the Packers, anything to grab the attention of pro football teams.
If there's one player in the NFL that has blazed a trail for Charneski, it's 49ers fullback Bruce Miller, who just signed a three-year contract extension on Thursday.
Miller was a two-time Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year as an end at Central Florida but has made a successful converstion to fullback in the NFL since Day 1.
Despite fullbacks disappearing from rosters across the NFL, Kuhn showed last season in Green Bay how valuable they can still be, acting as a lead blocker for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Eddie Lacy and as a personal pass protector for Aaron Rodgers.
Fullbacks might get a rare carry or catch an occasional pass, but Charneski doesn't necessarily want the attention that comes with touching the football.
"I think my strengths would have to be the blocking portion," said Charnesky. "I like it; I like running through people; I like making holes for the back behind me. I don't need the glory. Just let me go hit somebody."
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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