Abraham Lincoln proved that persistence pays off. The eventual 16th president of the United States lost eight elections throughout his political life before eventually landing in the White House.
Jake Nordin's goal is to make an impact in the National Football League. Being released by four NFL teams hasn't deterred the 6-3½, 260-pound tight end's dream. He did dress for one game with the Baltimore Ravens in 2007 and was on the field for three snaps. He spent all of the 2008 season on the Detroit Lions' practice squad and yearns for another chance to step foot on the field on a Sunday.
"I absolutely love this game," the former Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City star said from his parent's home near Lake Lillian. "That's one reason that I never thought about quitting when I got released a few times. And I've got a hunger to prove I can play in the NFL."
Nordin was an All-State tight end/linebacker for ACGC, helping the team win the Class AA state title in 2001. He went on to play four seasons for Northern Illinois, including an injury-riddled senior year, but went undrafted in the 2007 NFL draft despite a solid collegiate career.
So Nordin and his agent began to look for options. The New England Patriot gave him a tryout, but he was released before training camp began. The Washington Redskins picked him up and he played in all four of their exhibition games, catching a pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But he was released before the start of the regular season. The New York Giants signed him to their practice squad for one week before he was again released. The Baltimore Ravens were the next team to sign him to their practice squad and he stayed there for the remainder of the season. In the Ravens' regular-season finale, Nordin dressed and saw action for three plays at tight end, but did not have a pass thrown his way.
After the 2007 season, Baltimore fired head coach Brian Billick and Nordin had to prove himself all over to a new coaching staff. Struggling with hamstring pulls, Nordin was released late in training camp and then picked up by the Lions, where he spent the entire 2008 season on the practice squad.
"I'm aiming for a spot on the 55-man team," said Nordin. "I think I have a lot to offer. I've been working very hard and I think I'm a lot smarter player. I've gained knowledge of this game from every team I've been with. Now it's just time for me to show the Detroit organization what I can bring to the team."
Nordin earns $5,200 per week (for 17 weeks) on the practice squad with the Lions.
Training camp for the Lions begins on July 31 at Allen Park Facility in Detroit.
"Being on the practice squad and not getting to dress for games is humbling," he said Thursday, while in Willmar. "It's like being a redshirt freshman in college. Everyone coming out of college had been used to starting and being in the spotlight. It's been such a learning process and valuable life lessons. You just try to do what you can to help the team out. You know you are just one injury away from getting a chance."
Nordin has spent most of the summer back home working out with Gary Grahn, a lifting coach who was named one of the assistant coaches for the U.S. team in the ongoing World Games in Taiwan. Nordin has been working with Grahn since his freshman season in high school.
"He's been a tremendous help," said Nordin. "He works with a lot of the kids at ACGC and he's been a great mentor to me and the others."
Nordin also said he has been fishing, skiing and tubing with family and friends while back home. He will leave on July 28 to return to practice.
"It's been great spending time with my family and my buddies. But I can't wait to put the pads on again," he said. "I'm really getting pumped up to play."
The Lions drafted Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew and Dan Gronkowski of Maryland, while also signing former Seattle Seahawks tight end Will Heller in the off-season. But Nordin, who is now one of six tight ends on the team, feels he has a good chance to make the team this season.
"I'm more of an H-back than a typical tight end," he said. "I'm more in motion off the ball. Sort of like (Vikings' fullback/tight end Jimmie) Kleinsasser is used. (Offensive coordinator Scott) Linehan likes to use tight ends in different ways. This is the healthiest I've ever been. I've been working hard on all phases of my game and I'm really ready to show them what I have to offer."
So was Lincoln.