Callahan crew makes another trip to see Joe (possibly) start at QB for Packers

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Judy Callahan and her husband made the 456-mile drive from Absecon, New Jersey, to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. So did her two sisters, a brother and a nephew, too. A couple of their son's friends came. So did his girlfriend, her uncle and his friend.

"There was a nice little fan base there for him," Judy Callahan said.

It's no wonder Joe Callahan was more bummed out for them than himself when last Sunday's Hall of Fame Game -- his first and seemingly only chance to start an NFL game this preseason -- never kicked off because of poor field conditions.

"I'm sure my parents were pretty upset that they didn't get a chance to see me play," Callahan said. "Safety's the number one issue. I was out on the field, and it was unsafe. I'm glad they made that decision."

Actually, the family was thrilled to see Joey (as his mom calls him) in his No. 6 Green Bay Packers jersey. After all, who would've expected the small-school quarterback from Wesley College, who couldn't even get into an NFL pro day workout, to start in the NFL's first preseason game of the year? (Callahan's grandfather seemingly would've had a better shot at that some 63 years earlier; more on that in a bit.)

"He takes things in stride," Judy Callahan said after she returned to New Jersey. "He said, 'You know what, Mom? As much as I wanted this opportunity, the field really was not in any condition to play, and I wouldn't want that for any of us.'

"That's his personality; he doesn't dwell on things. He's thankful that he's there another day, and he just feels really comfortable."

The Packers had planned to start Callahan on Sunday because Aaron Rodgers wasn't scheduled to play and top backup Brett Hundley injured his ankle in practice.

If there was a team to give Callahan a shot -- and that was a big if coming out of Division III -- the Packers seemed like a great fit to his mom. When Judy's father-in-law died earlier this year, she found a letter dated September 1953 from then-Packers coach Gene Ronzani to Francis Joseph Callahan seeking information about him for the draft. Instead, Joe Callahan's grandfather picked baseball and ended up in the minor leagues.

"It's just this strange little story with the Packers and our family," Judy said. "We're just in awe. The Packers were Joey's team growing up, and for them to be the team that took interest in him, sometimes I'm just speechless."

With the extra preseason game lost, the Packers presumably would proceed this week like normal. After all, Rodgers played in the preseason opener last year. But based on practice reps this week, it doesn't look like coach Mike McCarthy will play his starting quarterback on Friday against the Cleveland Browns, and Hundley did not practice all week.

So Callahan might get the call after all. He took the No. 1 quarterback reps in practice on Wednesday while Rodgers ran the scout team. And even if McCarthy changes his plans, at least Callahan knows what it's like to prepare for an NFL start. At this time last year, he was preparing to start against Frostburg State.

"The preparation was great work for him, to prepare like a starter, dealing with a little adversity not getting the start -- that will be good for him, too, moving forward," Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt said. "I'm sure he was very disappointed, but we were all disappointed, too, because we really wanted to see Joe get in there and play with some guys.

"It's a tough deal but it's part of it. You just have to roll with the punches, and that was a punch in the face for him on that day."

His parents are rolling with it, too. They didn't hesitate to book a flight to Green Bay for Friday night's game. It's smaller group this time, but they'll be there nonetheless.

"We'll be out there with Joey's sister, my husband and I," Judy said.