By Joe Scalzo
Dan Gerberry has spent four years in the NFL — most of them on the practice squad — and has yet to appear in a regular season game. While this makes him better than 99 percent of the football players in the world, it also makes him more anonymous than 99 percent of the players in the NFL.
“The biggest misconception people have is, they think if you’re not a starter that you’re not good,” said Gerberry, a Fitch High and Ball State graduate who recently signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. “That’s a complete lie.
“In college, there were certain players you could go against and, I’m not saying you could take a play off, but in camp you wouldn’t have to give 100 percent focus on every play because you were naturally that much more talented. If you do that here [in the NFL], even against the bottom guy on the roster, you will get your butt kicked. I am not exaggerating. You will get embarrassed. Every play you need to have complete focus and concentration or it’s not going to work out well.”
That attitude served Gerberry well this offseason. After getting released by the Detroit Lions last August, the offensive lineman went unsigned all fall and started wondering whether his NFL career was over. But he stayed in shape — “I worked out like I was going to get signed tomorrow, because you never know when that call might come” — and in January, he got a text from his former offensive line coach in Detroit, George Yarno, who had just been hired in Jacksonville.
“He said, ‘I’m going to try to get you down here,’” Gerberry said.
Gerberry attended a Jaguars minicamp in April and finally signed in May. It’s just his second NFL team; Gerberry signed as an undrafted free agent with the Lions in 2009 and was active for just two games, spending both on the sidelines.
“Playing in the NFL is a privilege, not a right,” he said. “I’m fortunate to have every day I’ve had, whether it was in Detroit or here or the one day I had a workout in Kansas City. It’s all a blessing.
“The minute you take it for granted is the minute you’re walking out that door.”
Gerberry lives in Austintown when he’s not with an NFL team and got engaged in February to Niles native Jaclyn Burke, who teaches at Boardman High School. They’re getting married Feb. 15.
He plans to coach when his NFL career is over, a decision he’ll leave up to others.
“I’ll play until I get told I can’t play anymore,” he said. “Hopefully that’s not for another 10 years.”
When asked if he had a message for his Youngstown-area fans, he said, “Thanks for the support. I’m just trying to make you proud.”