As the 2016 NFL Draft unfolds this weekend, dreams are going to become a reality for 256 young men. Some will sign a contract worth more than they know what to do with, some will be happy to just make the practice squad. Former NFL defensive end and two time Super Bowl Champion Dave Tollefson knows the draft day feeling all too well.
Tollefson spent his college career at Northwest Missouri State University where he earned Second-team All-MIAA honors in 2004, and First-team All-MIAA honors in 2005. Tollefson was in a bass fishing tournament when he received the news that he would be drafted.
“The Packers called me in the fifth round, and then called me again in the seventh and they said they were going to pick me,” Tollefson said. “I was actually weighing for the bass tournament at that time.”
Although the draft process was low-key for Tollefson, the feeling of getting that call is still with him today.
“When they told me that I would 100 percent get a free agent contract, I was like ‘this is incredible. This is like the coolest thing ever that I’m just going to have a chance,’” Tollefson said. “My wife was back at Northwest Missouri State and she remembers seeing my name go across the screen.”
Tollefson was drafted in the seventh round with the 253rd pick in the 2006 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. No matter the number of pick or which team players are drafted by, their lives are changed forever, one way or another. For some, it is because of the money. For Tollefson, it was seeing his childhood dreams come true.
“Every kid that straps them up wants to play in the NFL,” Tollefson said. “Growing up in California watching Jerry Rice and Joe Montana, even though I was a Raider fan, you just wanted to be a part of that. That fraternity of the best in the world. As you get older you find out that it’s a small fraternity.”
“Just to get a chance, somebody wants you, that’s kind of neat,” Tollefson said. “For a guy like me that wasn’t even recruited out of high school to get drafted, that’s pretty neat.”
Tollefson went on to play for the New York Giants from 2007-11 where he was a part of the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl Champion teams. He said getting his first Super Bowl ring was a dreamlike experience, especially considering where he started.
“It was incredible. It was really surreal for me,” Tollefson said. “I was on the practice squad, I was a carpenter before I got to Northwest Missouri State, I walked on there, and then all of a sudden there’s confetti coming down and I’m hugging my wife and I thought someone was going to wake me up soon.”
Tollefson said the second time he went to the Super Bowl, he made sure to make the most of it.
“I really, really had fun,” Tollefson said. “I brought all of my family from California, and all of my wife’s family from Nebraska. I don’t think I made a dime playing that game, but we had a blast. It was so neat, playing for coach (Tom) Coughlin, my sons got to go to the game, it was neat.”
As for any advice Tollefson has for anyone entering the 2016 NFL Draft it is very simple: “Play like your life depends on it.”