Scharping comes home to Green Bay
By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – Scan the crowd and there were plenty of jerseys with the familiar name “Scharping” on the back.
Max Scharping was home.
Scharping got the unique opportunity to return to Green Bay Aug. 5-6 and play the sport he loves in front of friends and family.
This wasn’t any homecoming for the 2014 Green Bay Southwest High School graduate – Scharping was donning a Houston Texans jersey and practicing on Ray Nitschke Field.
“It’s amazing to be back home – I love the weather here,” said Scharping, who was a 2019 second-round draft pick of the team. “It’s a great opportunity to play against a great team.”
The Texans held joint practices with the Packers prior to both teams’ preseason opener Aug. 8 at Lambeau Field.
Scharping’s first NFL game will come in the same stadium he grew up watching his idols play on.
“You have to take a second anytime you walk in before a game and relax your nerves,” Scharping said. “At the end of the day, it’s my job, and it’s what I’m here to do.”
Scharping grew up a Packers fan, but his rooting allegiances have changed in the few short months since the Texans drafted him.
“I’m a Houston Texans fan – go, Texans,” he said. “Me being a Packers fan is buried deep down in there somewhere.”
Scharping, who started all 63 games he played in at Northern Illinois, used to watch future teammate J.J. Watt dominate defenders at Wisconsin.
Watt said he hasn’t gotten to know the first-year offensive lineman too well, but he made an effort to reach out to him while in Green Bay.
“This morning at breakfast, I got to sit and talk with him for a couple of minutes, which was nice,” said Watt about Scharping after the Aug. 5 practice. “He literally grew up three miles from here. This is one of the coolest experiences you can have as a rookie. Your first-ever away game and your first joint practice with another team. This has to be a surreal experience for him, and I’m glad he gets to experience it. I don’t know if he knows how special this is and how moments like this you hold onto and cherish.”
Getting a chance to come back home was great, but Scharping knows training camp is a critical time for him to prove to the Texans coaches he’s ready to be a starter.
He is showing he can be an every-down player, getting plenty of reps at tackle, mainly on the right side.
The Texans are looking for a dependable lineman after surrendering a league-high 62 sacks last season.
“Max is doing a good job,” said Texans coach Bill O’Brien. “He’s come in here and worked very hard. He’s one of the first ones in the building and one of the last ones to leave. For any rookie, they have to continue to get better day in and day out – he’s that type of guy. He’s got a very workmanlike approach of how he does things, and we’re happy to have him.”
Prior to making the trip to Green Bay, O’Brien didn’t talk to Scharping about the emotions of the situation ahead. He didn’t need to – he trusts his young lineman.
“I didn’t talk to Max about his emotions,” O’Brien said. “He’s very level headed and a straight shooter. He’s a rookie, but you can tell it’s very important to him. I’m sure being here was very exciting for him. He’s doing a really good job for us, and we think he’s got a really good future for us.”
Scharping was all business during the two-hour practice, but once the session concluded, he was on the sideline reminiscing with his former Southwest coaches Tim Birr and Pat Wallace, along with his parents, Paul and Jackie.
There was an entire Scharping clan on hand for the once-in-a-lifetime moment.
“It was a great opportunity for me to be in front of family and friends,” Scharping said. “It’s amazing they still support me and come out.”
Along with getting to practice against his favorite team growing up, Scharping was also able to partake in the Packers’ traditional bike corral.
He was the first Texans player out of the locker room to jump on a kid’s bike.
He chose a girl who wore a Scharping number 74 jersey.
With his knees almost to the handlebars, he made his way slowly to practice.
“It had training wheels – that’s how small it was,” Scharping joked with the media members. “It was fun and rode very smooth, so I was happy with it.”