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Ex-UMD lineman tackles NFL job opportunity

The Seattle Seahawks broke into small groups on Wednesday, just one day before the official start of training camp, to discuss a variety of important topics.

Jake Bscherer
Bscherer played at UMD and Wisconsin.

The Seattle Seahawks broke into small groups on Wednesday, just one day before the official start of training camp, to discuss a variety of important topics.

One of those included learning how to construct bicycles in a short period of time.

Seattle coach Pete Carroll has his own style, and the point of the exercise, as much as anything else, was to build team camaraderie.

"We've been doing all kinds of stuff," said former Minnesota Duluth offensive lineman Jake Bscherer. "We're just getting into the swing of things."

Bscherer, a former University of Wisconsin player who made a big impact in his only season at UMD last fall, is willing to do whatever the coaches ask of him if it means having a better shot of making the roster.

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Bscherer is one of 90 players in camp, which begins today at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Wash., and that number has to be trimmed down to 53 by Aug. 31. Other than a handful of players who make the practice squad, that's it. Bscherer knows he has a challenge ahead of him, but it's one he is more than willing to take.

Playing in the NFL would be the dream of a lifetime for the 6-foot-6, 318-pound tackle from Sturgeon Bay, Wis.

"Jake is a realistic guy," UMD football coach Curt Wiese said. "He's very down to earth, but in the same sense, he has put himself in a position where he has a shot. He's given himself an opportunity, and that's all he can ask for, so he is going to try to make the most of it. He's optimistic. He's excited, and he's worked extremely hard. His body is feeling as good as it ever has going into camp."

Bscherer had been back in Minnesota and Wisconsin, visiting with friends and working out in the Twin Cities. He flew out to Seattle on Tuesday.

After going through rookie camp and organized team activities with the Seahawks in the spring, some of the wow factor has subsided. Receiver Percy Harvin and quarterback Russell Wilson are no longer players he watched on TV last fall, but are now teammates.

Bscherer and Wilson's paths never crossed at Wisconsin, but Bscherer is familiar with enough people on the Seahawks roster to help ease his transition, including a couple of former Badger teammates.

"Right now, I'm just focusing on what I can do," Bscherer said. "I'm going to do whatever I can to make the team."

Bscherer will be the third Bulldog to attend an NFL training camp since 2005, joining three-time All-American running back Isaac Odim, who was with the San Diego Chargers in 2011, and outside linebacker Russ Rabe, with the New Orleans Saints in 2005.

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Former UMD lineman Dave Viaene is the last Bulldog to see playing time in an NFL regular-season game. He played for the Green Bay Packers in 1992.

Bscherer said he signed a four-year rookie contract that pays him about $1,000 per week. That would increase substantially if he makes the squad, with the NFL minimum salary for rookies being $405,000 for 2013.

The Seahawks' preseason opener is Aug. 8 at the San Diego Chargers.

"Everyone is fighting for a spot. That's their job," Bscherer said. "Obviously, you still have to perform in practice, but the first couple preseason games will be critical. You have to get into a game situation and prove you can play at this level. That's really how you earn your spot. I'm looking forward to the challenge."

Heikkinen helping with Bulldogs

Wiese said former UMD guard Garth Heikkinen of Duluth will be a graduate assistant for the Bulldogs football team this fall. Heikkinen, the 2012 NCAA Division II lineman of the year, will work with the tight ends.

Heikkinen had a tryout with the Minnesota Vikings in May and still could have an opportunity with an NFL team once camps start, and injuries begin piling up, but he has started to switch his focus to a career in coaching.

"We needed a tight ends coach, and tight end is kind of a hybrid between the wide receivers and offensive line, so Garth will do just fine," Wiese said. "Garth did catch a pass once, I believe as a sophomore. He's got a 3-yard reception on his stats, and he'll remind you of that."

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Vogler relishing German football

Wiese said record-setting UMD quarterback Chase Vogler is enjoying his stint with the Bielefeld Bulldogs of the German Football League.

The Bulldogs lead the league with an 8-1 record and are averaging 31.4 points per game. Vogler is averaging 228 passing yards per game, with 19 touchdown passes to just seven interceptions. He has also rushed for 400 yards and three more scores.

Vogler isn't just playing quarterback but is punting as well, averaging 39.9 yards per punt. As part of his contract, he is also teaching English in school.

"Chase is having a good year and is having a lot of fun," Wiese said. "He's leading his team to victory."

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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