GREEN BAY, Wis. (BVM) – When Ryan Wisniewski puts on the Green and Gold helmet, throws on a Green Bay Packer jersey and steps on to the Don Hutson Center field for the first time, it will be a surreal moment.
“I feel like if I don’t take a moment and take it all in, it’ll take over. As soon as I get there I’m going to take 10 minutes, absorb it all and then it’s to business,” Wisniewski said.
The Wisconsin native and former UW-Whitewater receiver received an invitation to the Packers’ rookie mini camp in early May, with the chance to try out for the team. For a lifetime Packer fan, it is a dream come true.
“It’s awesome,” Wisniewski said. “I mean me, my brother and my mom used to go to the Green Bay game day invites. From a little kid always watching the Packers, Brett Farve to Aaron Rodgers and now I get to go be a Packer for a few days, hopefully more.”
The invite is well deserved. Wisniewski leaves Whitewater as one of the best wide receivers to ever come through the program. He finished fourth all-time in career receiving touchdowns (26), sixth in career receiving yards (2,441) and tied for sixth in career receptions (154). This year for the Warhawks, Wisniewski had 61 receptions for 1,050 yards and 13 touchdowns, doing his part to get Whitewater all the way to the national semifinal game.
His success at Whitewater is the reason he chose to go to the DIII powerhouse. Although he had offers from some DII schools coming out of Sparta High School in Sparta, Wisconsin, Wisniewski chose UW-Whitewater because he believed they could help him unlock his full potential.
“I didn’t come here to become an NFL-type guy,” Wisniewski said. “I came here to be the best football player I could be.”
“Over the course of my last four years, it’s been ‘I’m going to be the best football player I can be and see where it takes me.’”
With the Warhawks, being the best football player you can be does, however, set you up for a shot at the NFL. The most recent and most notable examples are Buffalo Bills wide receiver Jake Kumerow and Denver Broncos guard Quinn Meinerz, but since 2000, the Warhawks have sent at least 10 players to the NFL.
It’s an impressive tradition that Wisniewski hopes to be a part of after rookie minicamp, especially since the opportunity he has received was not guaranteed. Following the season, Wisniewski was unable to partake in a pro day because of a turf toe injury he had sustained during the season.
Unable to showcase his athleticism, the 6-foot-5, 210-pound wide receiver would have to wait and see if an NFL team would be interested in him just based off of what he had done during the season.
“It was frustrating because if I was able to do my pro day I would’ve been able to put up some good numbers,” Wisniewski said. “It set me back but not enough to not get an invite which is amazing.”
But that is in the past now and he still has an opportunity to make it in the NFL. Wisniewski is ready for his moment and knows what he needs to do to get the attention of the Packers.
“I think my size is going to help a lot, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame and I can move really well and I can catch the ball really well,” Wisniewski said.
He also boasts an impressive catch radius, ability to run with the football after the catch and has experience on special teams, and running the wild cat.
Wisniewski will have plenty of people cheering for him, too. Since it was announced that he had received an invite, Wisniewski’s phone has been blowing up with friends, family and fans showing support and wishing him luck.
“The first day I couldn’t go on my phone without trying to respond to people for an hour,” Wisniewski said.
It is a testament to how special this moment is for the wide receiver from Sparta. Few get the chance and although Wisniewski has every intention to keep the dream going well beyond rookie minicamp, those first few moments up in Green Bay will be unforgettable.