It is every parent's dream to see their child succeed in life -- and long-time Rockville Centre residents Cathy and Tom Van Roten's dreams came true after their son Greg became a practice player for one of the National Football League's elite teams: the Green Bay Packers.
"We knew he was talented since he was very little," his father, Tom, said. "We always knew he had football in his blood."
Greg started out his football career playing for the Baldwin Bombers PAL team when he was 11 years old. When he entered the sixth grade at South Side Middle School, he played on the school's team as quarterback, a position he excelled at through eigth grade.
Then puberty hit.
Greg grew to be 6-foot-3 and more than 200 pounds and found a more natural position for his size. He played all four years on Chaminade High School's varsity team at the left tackle position. As a Flyer he served as co-captain for the team and earned All-League and All-State honors his senior year.
After graduating from Chaminade in 2008, Greg went on to play for the Ivy League's Pennsylvania Quakers. He was a star for the Quakers, earning All-League honors three times and Ivy Player of the Year twice.
"My wife Cathy and I weren't sure if college was the end of his football career," Tom said, "Because it is a very rare for Ivy League players who aren't on scholarship to get drafted into the NFL. But we encouraged him to pursue his goal because of his absolute passion for the sport."
At the request of his coaches, Greg sent out video highlights from his Chaminade team to NFL scouts hoping to hear back. He also participated in a NFL Regional combine in New Jersey and put up excellent numbers in categories such as the 40-yard dash and broad jump. But to his disappointment he did not get any bites.
Greg did not give up though and hired an agent to help him through the process.
Finally, in early May, he got an invite from the New York Jets training camp and was also invited to work out for the San Diego Chargers. The two teams did not add him to their practice squads however.
He received another call from the Green Bay Packers and worked out in front of their coaches on July 25. The coaches were shocked with his athletic ability and added him to their roster immediately.
Now it's just a matter of time before Van Roten is on the field playing a game for the Packers. He is the first player on the Packers' reserve list and will be activated if any of the starting linemen go down.
"It is a sort of a Cinderella story," Tom said. "He was coming from a school where they almost never draft players into the NFL, but his determination and relentlessness helped him succeed."