GREEN BAY, Wis. – Peter Mortell's grandfather operated the game clock at Lambeau Field for more than 30 years. His father took over in 2000 and still has the job.
Naturally, people figure he’s next in line.
“You know what? I don’t think so,” Mortell said. “I have an older brother, Max, and he would’ve gotten first dibs on it before me. He will probably have that gig when it’s passed down.”
Looks like Mortell will have to settle for the opportunity to play for the Green Bay Packers.
“I’ll take my chances with what I’m doing right now,” Mortell joked.
The Green Bay native agreed to a free-agent contract shortly after the draft ended last weekend. The former Big Ten punter of the year at Minnesota was one of nearly 20 undrafted players to sign with the Packers (the full list has not yet been released).
Mortell had offers from at least three other teams immediately after the draft but said he picked the Packers because of the good feeling he came away with following his workout last month in front of special teams coach Ron Zook, general manager Ted Thompson and director of football operations Eliot Wolf.
The proximity to home was also a factor. Lambeau Field is exactly 1.5 miles from the football stadium at his high school alma mater, Green Bay's Notre Dame Academy.
The Packers are looking for competition for veteran punter Tim Masthay and hope Mortell can provide it. He set a Minnesota record with a 44.0-yard-per-punt career average. Mortell further refined his skills this offseason by working out with former NFL punter Darren Bennett in San Diego.
Mortell is taking nothing for granted. All he knows is that the first thing on his schedule is this weekend's rookie minicamp.
“Even going back to college, I came in as a walk-on and I had to earn everything,” Mortell said. “So I’ve been in a position before where I know I need to compete. What I’m going to do is come in every day with a good attitude, and I’m going to try to leave the facility as a better punter than when I got there in the morning. I know if I just focus on the process, the results will take care of themselves. I’m not going to look too far ahead, and I’m just going to give it my best shot.”
The Mortell family connection to the Packers goes back to the late 1960s, when Vince Lombardi asked Gerald J. Mortell Jr. (known as Jerry) if he would like to work as the clock operator for home games. The two attended the same church, Resurrection Catholic Parish, in the Green Bay suburb of Allouez. By the early 1980s, his son, Jerry III, began to join him in the press box.
“I would sit there with him and slowly but surely he’d say, ‘Why don’t you do this quarter?’” Jerry III said. “Then it got to the point where he’d do the first quarter, I’d do the second quarter, he’d do the third quarter and I’d do the fourth quarter.”
It went on like that until the elder Jerry retired in 2000, and the younger Jerry took over. And, of course, he would drag his sons along.
“All through grade school, I would sit with my dad as he ran the clock,” Peter said. “Once I hit high school, I was actually a press box stat runner. I did that all through high school.”
His brother, Max, still does it. He commutes from his home in Duluth, Minnesota, to work on game weekends.
Things couldn’t have worked out better for the Mortells during draft weekend. Peter was home in Green Bay with his family when Packers director of football operations Eliot Wolf, also a Green Bay Notre Dame alum, called to offer him a contract.
“It was a moment I’ll never forget,” Peter said. “The second the draft got over, we got the deal done. It was a very special moment for my family and I.”