Alex Light did not play for a major college football program.
He was not chosen in the NFL Draft.
And yet the former Salem High School offensive tackle has made the regular-season roster of the Green Bay Packers.
“It is a dream come true,” Light said this week in a phone interview. “When I was a kid, … I used to watch football on Sundays and be like, ‘Wow, I just want to be one of those guys one day.’
“I never thought I would actually have a chance at the NFL until probably sophomore year of college, [but] growing up, as I was playing Pee Wee, Little League, middle school, it was always in the back of my head.”
The former University of Richmond standout did not expect Green Bay would deem him worthy of a spot on its 53-man active roster. But the NFL rookie survived last Saturday’s cuts.
“I expected to be on the practice squad, honestly, so to be on the active kind of shocked me,” Light said.
The 6-foot-5, 309-pound Light, who is a third-string left tackle on Green Bay’s depth chart, is now responsible for protecting one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks — Aaron Rodgers.
He got his first taste of that at an Organized Team Activity practice earlier this year.
“I went in with the [first string] at right tackle — Aaron was in. It was all the starters and then myself for a few reps,” Light said. “A light bulb went off in my head that said, ‘Listen, you can’t get beat. You can’t look bad, because you’re blocking for Aaron. You’ve got to protect him or else you’re going to lose your spot.’
“Right then and there I was like, ‘Wow, I’m actually a professional athlete right now, blocking for Aaron Rodgers.’ ”
Light was an offensive tackle and defensive lineman for Salem, twice making the All-Timesland first team. As a junior, he played for a Spartans team that did not lose until the state semifinals.
“That group of guys was really special,” Light said.
The Spartans made it back to the state semifinals when Light was a senior.
He also started for the boys basketball team. As a junior, he had 14 points and 14 rebounds to help Salem beat Grafton in the state title game.
“I was really impressed with Alex. He was a gifted basketball player and a good offensive tackle,” said VMI football coach Scott Wachenheim, who was a Virginia assistant when Light was in high school. “We were thinking about offering him [a football scholarship] at UVa. He had the potential to be really good. We knew that. We thought that there were a couple guys that were ahead of him.”
When it became apparent that UVa would not be making an offer, Wachenheim recommended Light to one of Richmond’s coaches.
Richmond and VMI were the only schools to offer Light a scholarship. He verbally committed to Richmond in December of his senior year.
“Alex to me was a real steal coming out of high school,” said Danny Rocco, who steered Richmond from 2012-2016 before becoming Delaware’s coach. “He was a guy that we actually saw at the UVa camp. … Scott liked him a lot. … So when you kind of feel like there’s a guy there that has that kind of talent but he might not quite make the grade for them, we went after him really hard.
“He’s a big, big kid and very athletic.”
After playing for Richmond as a true freshman, Light started for the Spiders at tackle the past three seasons.
As a junior in 2016, he was part of a Richmond squad that not only upset UVa in the regular season but also made a second straight appearance in the FCS quarterfinals. Rocco said in a 2016 interview that Light was an NFL prospect with an “NFL body.”
Last year, when Light played both tackle and guard, he made the All-Colonial Athletic Association first team. Richmond coach Russ Huesman said Light has “hands like the Incredible Hulk.”
“He loves lifting weights. He loves practice, meetings,” Huesman said. “His football IQ was off the charts.
“We are so proud of him to have this opportunity.”
Light did not take classes at UR during the 2018 spring semester, opting to focus on training for an NFL shot.
He not only worked out at Richmond but also at Delaware, where former UR lineman Thomas Evans has a job in the weight room. Light, who plans to resume classes next spring, practiced at center to improve his NFL odds.
He was not surprised when he was bypassed in the NFL Draft last April. Green Bay and the New York Giants both wanted to sign him as an undrafted free agent. Light picked Green Bay because Evans, who had been cut by Green Bay last year, had already taught him the Packers’ snap counts and drills.
Light played tackle, guard and center in Green Bay’s rookie minicamp last spring.
“I was able to show them my versatility,” Light said. “And then all through OTAs, I did pretty well. I was hearing good feedback.
“Going into camp, I felt confident in my ability to keep getting better and to pick up everything quickly and to not make mistakes. … As the [preseason] games started coming, I started getting into a good rhythm.
“I slow everything down in my head. I slow my feet down, be more patient with everything, just because in the NFL there’s so many different looks you can get. … In the NFL, you can get a … different look every play. So you’ve just got to … go through assignments in your head.”
NFL teams had to make final cuts last Saturday to get down to the league’s 53-man roster limit. Light went to lunch with some teammates. One by one, his friends got calls informing them that they had been cut.
At 3 p.m. Saturday, one of the Green Bay coaches called Light to tell him he had made the team. He was one of four undrafted rookie free agents to make Green Bay’s active roster. Light called his family with the good news.
The Packers will host Chicago on Sunday night in a game that will air on NBC.
“I’m just really excited,” Light said.