Drew Nowak calls the Green Bay area home. He grew up so close to Lambeau Field he could practically see the Packers’ iconic home from his front yard.
Nowak can also be called a part-owner of the Packers. He, his siblings and his parents have framed shares of the publically owned NFL team hanging in the family’s home in Ledgeview, Wisconsin, the town outside De Pere — which is just outside Green Bay. His grandfather bought the family those symbolic shares wen Drew was a kid.
“I have three shares in frames, in fact,” Nowak said this week, one for each time the Packers have sold stock to fans.
“When you drive down ‘The Ledge’ (from his house) you can actually see Lambeau Field in the distance. My family’s had tickets since the ‘60s. They still go to all the games.”
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The younger Nowak’s been attending their games since he was six years old, cheering on Brett Favre, Reggie White and the 1996 Green Bay team under Mike Holmgren that beat New England to win the franchise’s third NFL championship.
“When we won the Super Bowl — sorry, I said ‘we’ — when they won the Super Bowl that ’96-’97 season, I still have a duffle bag from that Super Bowl,” Nowak said. “I still have hats. I have a picture actually in my room at home, a collage of all the guys from that team.”
So, yes, you can call Nowak a Packer Backer.
This weekend, you can also call Nowak a huge key to the Seahawks beating the team he partly owns.
Nowak will be making his second career start at center Sunday night when Seattle (0-1) plays at Green Bay (1-0) in a ballyhooed rematch of January’s NFC Championship Game at CenturyLink Field won miraculously by the Seahawks.
Seattle’s offensive line is a key to the game; if Nowak can nail down the communication issues that caused missed assignments among the blockers last week in the opening loss at St. Louis, the Seahawks have a chance to move the ball and score against a Packers defense that will be missing starting inside linebacker and play caller Sam Barrington (out for the year with a foot injury) and safety Morgan Burnett (questionable with an injured calf).
“A lot of people there are Drew fans — but they are Packer fans,” Nowak said with a laugh before he and the Seahawks flew to Wisconsin Friday afternoon. “I can’t hate them for it, because it’s hard to love a team your whole life and want to switch — especially with the rivalry we kind of have with the Packers.”
Nowak and the Seahawks’ line including fellow new starters Garry Gilliam at right tackle and Justin Britt at left guard have spent this week focused on improving communication just before each snap. Nowak said he needs to be more forceful, more decisive in his calls.
Then again, last weekend at St. Louis was the first time the former college defensive tackle and Mid-American Conference defensive player of the year at Western Michigan four years ago played center.
“The games for him are enormous,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday. “Each time just to survive through four quarters of an NFL game, that’s the first time. There’s no question that he has probably as much to gain as anybody, any of the first time guys.
“Hopefully it’ll show (Sunday).”
If it does, the Seahawks will have a chance to keep up the scoring pace Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense will try to set in Green Bay’s home opener.
The Seahawks listed Gilliam and starting OLB Bruce Irvin as questionable with rib injuries, but Carroll says he thinks both will be able to play Sunday. Irvin, who is in the final year of his rookie contract as Seattle’s first-round draft choice in 2012, started last weekend’s opener at St. Louis and played 51 of 60 snaps on defense. The rib injury this week caused him to miss practice Thursday and be limited during Friday’s walkthrough. If he misses any snaps, second-year linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis would likely replace him. If Gilliam unexpectedly can’t make his second career start, Alvin Bailey would be the right tackle. … Carroll said reserve CB Tharold Simon will be a game-time decision. The third-year cornerback missed last week’s game with a toe injury, stalling his push to challenge Cary Williams for the starting cornerback job opposite Richard Sherman. … Speaking of Sherman, expect the All-Pro cornerback to again play inside when the Seahawks go to five defensive backs Sunday, as they are likely to often against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers’ passing game. Sherman played about 15 plays as the nickel back inside against slot receivers last week against the Rams. He may do it more this week to shadow Randall Cobb, who is emerging as Green Bay’s top receiver with Jordy Nelson out for the season because of a knee injury. Cobb had five catches and a touchdown last week in the Packers’ 31-23 win at Chicago. … The Packers declared Bryan Bulaga out, meaning fourth-year veteran Don Barclay is likely to start at right tackle. Barclay missed all last season with a torn knee ligament. Seattle ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett are likely to take turns targeting him.
SUNDAY: Seattle (0-1) at Green Bay (1-0), 5:30 p.m., Ch. 5, 710-AM, 97.3-FM