During pre-National Football League Draft interviews with NFL front-office personnel, 2017 Salem High School graduate and Saginaw Valley State University standout linebacker Trevor Nowaske was asked to talk about his current hobbies.
“I was straight up with them and told them I don’t have any,” Nowaske recounted, smiling. “I explained to them that I dropped everything I was doing to pursue my dream of playing professional football.”
Nowaske’s sacrifices were rewarded Saturday afternoon when he received a life-changing text from his agent.
Life-changing text message
“The text said, ‘Congratulations! You’re a (Detroit) Lion!’,” Nowaske said. “He sent me over the (free agent) contract to sign and now I’m ready to get to work. It was surreal because I’ve been a Lions fan my entire life and now I’m part of the organization.
“It was really a cool, emotional moment. It’s funny, my mom (Renee) had just left our house to go get us food (once the seventh and final round of the NFL Draft ended) when the text came in. I immediately called her and told her the good news, and she was freaking out. All the sacrifices I made paid off.”
Fueled by hard work and an unyielding belief in himself, Nowaske defied some astronomical odds to achieve his goal of signing an NFL contract.
Defying the odds with hard work, unyielding belief
Less than 1% of youth-league football players ultimately sign a pro contract.
The odds grow even longer for Division II-level players like Nowaske.
However, after a stellar career at SVSU, the 6-foot-3, 235-pound linebacker posted remarkable running times and agility measurements at the university’s pro day in March.
Nowaske got the Lions decision-makers’ attention when he shined during a local players’ workout opportunity a few weeks before this week’s draft at the team’s Allen Park headquarters.
“In addition to working out, I got to meet with some coaches, including the defensive coordinator, which was very cool,” he said.
Intense, emotional day
With online draft experts predicting Nowaske could potentially be a late-round selection, the family was glued to their TV throughout Saturday’s ESPN broadcast of the fourth through seventh rounds.
“At the end of the draft, it felt like I had completed a pretty exhausting workout and all’s I did all day was stare at the TV screen,” Nowaske quipped. “The entire day was like a rollercoaster. The draft is so unpredictable, you just never know.”
When the final round ended and he wasn’t selected, Nowaske’s agent reached out to teams that had shown interest, including Carolina and Atlanta.
“My emotions were all over the place Saturday,” he said. “So when I got the text saying the Lions wanted me, it was a pretty emotional moment — one I’ll never forget.”
‘I was never afraid of contact’
Nowaske’s gridiron journey started in third grade when he first pulled on a pair of shoulder pads for Our Lady of Good Counsel.
“I was one of those kids who was never afraid of contact,” he said.
Although he excelled during his time at Salem, Nowaske didn’t receive scholarship offers from Division 1 schools.
“When that happened, I kind of developed a chip on my shoulder,” he said. “I don’t think I’d be where I am now without that chip.”
Family support vital
He said his remarkable journey was made possible by the support of his family: Renee, father Jim and sister Hannah.
“Their support has been amazing,” he said. “Throughout my entire sports career — from youth leagues through college — I think they only missed one college game.
“My dad played college football and had a stint with the Cleveland Browns, so he’s been my football mentor throughout my life. He coached me all the way up through high school.
“I’ve made a lot of sacrifices to get to this point and they’ve paid off.”
Nowaske will participate in a Lions rookie training camp in three weeks where his against-the-odds journey will continue.
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