Seymour’s Dietzen sees dreams turn into reality
By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – In February 2019, Jon Dietzen decided to retire from football due to injuries.
The former Seymour and University of Wisconsin offensive lineman had a successful career, starting 32 games at the college level.
Dietzen said he had dreamed of playing in the NFL, but that goal was going to be difficult to obtain because of recurring injuries.
In fall 2019, Dietzen went to a Green Bay Packers preseason game with his dad and brother.
What happened next changed his life.
“I got to go watch the guys and I said, ‘Man, I can still do what these guys are doing,’” Dietzen told The Press Times.
After one season away from football, Dietzen announced in September 2019 he was coming back to play his senior year at Wisconsin.
Dietzen had a solid campaign, starting all seven games and declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
He said he knew his best shot was to be a late-round pick.
After the Packers selected Dietzen’s former Wisconsin teammate, Cole Van Lanen, in the middle of the sixth round, Dietzen was on the phone with his agent.
The Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were interested in signing him as a free agent if he went undrafted.
Dietzen’s agent posed a question to him.
“He probably knew the answer, but he was like, ‘Which (team) sounds better to you?’” Dietzen said, laughing. “Very quickly, I said, ‘Yeah, I’d like to be a Packer.’”
But, with more than 40 picks remaining in the draft, Dietzen could still hear his name called.
“One of the discussions my agent and I had was if you’re working with a team, talking to them can create some pressure for that final round and maybe you could get picked up during the draft instead of having to go after,” Dietzen said.
The draft ended and Dietzen was still available.
He quickly became one of seven undrafted free agents that signed with the Packers.
It was quite the experience for Dietzen, who now gets to play for the team he grew up rooting for.
“It’s wild,” he said. “It took some time to wrap my head around it. It’s one of those things that worked out better than you could ever hope for.”
Dietzen called it a huge surprise Green Bay picked him up because, during the pre-draft process, the Packers weren’t in contact with him much.
He said about nine teams had been in touch with his agent, either via phone calls or sending questionnaires inquiring if he was healthy.
After the dust settled, Dietzen was talking with his dad about staying put in Wisconsin.
“He nudged me, and he said, ‘Do you realize you committed to Wisconsin at Lambeau, you decided to come back at Lambeau and now you’re going to make your comeback at Lambeau?’ It’s gone full circle.”
Dietzen, a Black Creek native, made a FaceTime call to Van Lanen, who grew up in Suamico, letting him know he was going to be a Packer as well.
“He thought it was unbelievable, too,” Dietzen said. “Two guys from the area, both going to Madison, both coming back.”
He said he loves he’ll have a friend in Van Lanen to compete with, learn the playbook together and push each other.
“We’ve been in contact back and forth talking about what we’re going to do,” said Dietzen. “Hopefully, we can get our noses in some of the schemes soon. It will be good to have someone we’ve bounced stuff off each other for years and talked to each other for a long time. It will be nice to already have that communication smoothed out.”
Dietzen’s high school coach at Seymour, Matt Molle, was ecstatic he gets a shot with the Packers.
“I couldn’t be more proud and excited for Jon as he chases his dream,” Molle said. “The Packers are getting a local boy who is going to give them everything he’s got. His time away from the game helped him develop an appreciation for the game that is sometimes difficult to come by and has helped get him to this spot.”
Ready to compete
Dietzen graduated from Seymour in 2015 before heading off to Madison.
He received ample opportunities to play with the Badgers, earning 39 starts and playing in 42 games.
During the 2017 season, Dietzen dealt with ankle and hip injuries.
The next season, he had surgery to repair labrum tears in both hips.
Dietzen said he feels great now.
“I feel as physically fit as I’ve ever been,” he said.
A player never wants to be faced with retiring due to injuries, but it’s probably a good thing Dietzen did retire – or step away for a season, as it turns out – because it gave him a shot to make a comeback.
“I’m sure it would have gone a little bit different, but part of my retirement was preserving my body and my love for the game in general,” Dietzen said. “If I would have stuck through it, I don’t know if I would have put up good film for my last season or if I would have even made it through that season.”
Dietzen isn’t quite sure yet what the Packers’ plan is for him, but he believes he’ll play guard.
Last season, Dietzen started four games at left guard, two at left tackle and one at right guard.
“I haven’t talked specifically about that kind of stuff yet, but the same way as I was at Wisconsin, wherever you want me to play, I’ll play,” he said.
Dietzen put on a Packers jersey for the first time at rookie minicamp May 14-15.
“This whole thing’s going to be a big learning curve, and it takes time on the field to get that stuff down,” he said. “That’s exactly what we’re going to do is get some work in and get better.”
The Packers have been known to give undrafted free agents a solid chance at making the roster.
“At Wisconsin, we were always taught to make ourselves goals that are periodical,” said Dietzen. “You might have one big goal at the end, but it’s going to take little chunks to get there.”