Adam Stenavich’s path to the Green Bay Packers started with a little-known trade in the early 1960s.
Great-grandma Stenavich’s homemade polish sausage recipe in exchange for Packers season tickets.
A good value for a Green Bay Packers executive that was trying to feed his daughter’s wedding party. Anne Stenavich, a former Menasha grocery store owner, also got a steal, acquiring a pair of season tickets that have stayed in her family for 50-plus years.
Adam Stenavich, the new Packers offensive line coach, was a beneficiary of that trade as a child.
“Every few years, I would be able to get tickets, because they were passed through the family,” Stenavich said in a phone interview last month. “It was always one of the last games of the year, sitting in the stands freezing my butt off and having fun. It was a cool deal.”
Stenavich will be freezing his butt off from the sideline this season. The 36-year-old Marshfield native was hired in January to replace longtime Packers assistant James Campen, who is now the associate head coach/offensive line coach for the Cleveland Browns. Stenavich’s hiring was part of a complete coaching overhaul that began on Jan. 8, when Matt LaFleur was hired to replace former head coach Mike McCarthy.
While Stenavich grew up a Packers fan — and was a member of the team’s practice squad in the mid-2000s — he wasn’t intentionally holding out for a job in Green Bay. After spending the last two seasons as the San Francisco 49ers’ assistant offensive line coach and the previous three-plus years as a college offensive line coach, Stenavich was open to any NFL opportunities that came his way this winter. It just so happened that his home-state team called.
“When you’re talking about an NFL O-line job ... it was basically anyone that opened up. If the opportunity presented itself, I definitely would have been very interested,” Stenavich said, conceding there was still something special about the Green Bay gig. “The combination of being in Wisconsin with the Packers and working with a guy like Matt LaFleur was too good to be true.”
While the sausage trade is an interesting anecdote, Stenavich’s path to becoming the Green Bay Packers offensive line coach really began with his playing days. A 6-foot-5 offensive tackle, Stenavich didn’t choose the in-state team coming out of high school. Instead, he went to Michigan, where he became a two-time first-team All-Big Ten Conference left tackle during a five-year span that saw the Wolverines win two Big Ten titles and reach the Rose Bowl twice.
“I just worried about the guy across from me,” Stenavich said of making the transition from high school football to the Big Ten. “Coming from Marshfield to Michigan, you worry if you’re going to be able to do it, but I just tried to block the guy across from me.”
Stenavich went undrafted in the 2006 NFL Draft and signed with the Carolina Panthers, but was released before the season started. That’s when he signed his first contract with the Packers, staying about a full year until he was cut after the 2007 preseason.
The feeling he got when putting on the green and golf uniform was still present when he arrived for work at the team’s facility this winter.
“When I played here, it was like, ‘Wow, I’m with the Packers,’” Stenavich said. “Same for this job. It’s cool to be back with these guys. … Driving up to Lambeau, it’s still like, ‘Wow, this is where I work.’”
But Stenavich said that the day-to-day grind of the job is the same as it’s been since his playing days ended and he returned to Michigan as a strength and conditioning intern.
“It’s been … worry about the job you have and when a new opportunity comes up ... great,” Stenavich said of his approach throughout his eight years in the coaching profession. “I’ve always wanted to do this, so I guess you could say it’s been my goal (to be a head offensive line coach). But it’s just been step by step.”
Stenavich is a couple steps into his tenure with the Packers, joining an overhauled Green Bay facility that is working to mesh the styles of a new offensive brain trust that is led by LaFleur and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett.
“First you evaluate the roster and the guys you have; now it’s the draft stuff and looking at future prospects,” Stenavich said of his process when taking a new job. “Then it’s putting the offense together. We’ve got a bunch of coaches from a bunch of different places. We’re all just putting our ideas together and trying to make the best offense possible.”
It’s also a young staff — led by the 39-year-old LaFleur — that is looking to infuse energy into the building.
“You can relate to guys on a different level,” Stenavich said of how youth can be beneficial in coaching. “Having played helps, too. The guys respect that you have that experience, but it all comes down to just being a competent coach, being able to teach the guys. It’s about being able to communicate and earn the players trust. That comes over time.”
That’s what got him in the profession in the first place, an opportunity to stay in the game and pass along what he’s learned to the next generation.
“When I was in college, I realized it was a path I would be interested in,” Stenavich said of when he began to consider the coaching profession. “I still wanted to be part of football, I still wanted to affect lives and I liked the strategy.
“I was always able to grasp that. I played all the positions on the O-line, so in order for me to survive I had to know everything.”
Stenavich and the rest of the staff have the next five months to hammer out their strategy, but the new coaches had the building excited even before the players arrived April 8 for the first team meeting.
“We’re just kind of doing what we do and working every day,” Stenavich said of what the offseason has been like in Green Bay. “I can tell from guys that have been here a while that it feels a little different.”