Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009 | 2:50 p.m.
Brandyn Dombrowski watched Saturday in the San Diego Chargers’ weight room as players were summoned one-by-one to the front office.
This is how it works on NFL cut day — when teams are required to trim their rosters to 53 players — in San Diego. If a Chargers official pulls a player aside during their workout, he is no longer on the team.
“If no one talks to you,” Dombrowski said, “you’ve made it.”
And no one talked to Dombrowski.
The former Green Valley High standout made the Chargers roster as a backup left tackle. He snagged one of the last spots on the Chargers, a team that won the AFC West last season and is considered a Super Bowl contender in 2009.
Come Monday night, when San Diego kicks off its season against Oakland, the 6-foot-5, 323-pound Dombrowski will be protecting quarterback Philip Rivers’ blind side. It’s quite the accomplishment considering Dombrowski only switched to the position this offseason.
“He is really a guy that’s improved,” San Diego coach Norv Turner told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “He’s worked as hard as anyone in this organization over the last year and a half.”
Truth be told, however, Dombrowski has worked for this moment much longer than the last year and a half. It started in high school.
Dombrowski’s father, former Canadian Football League player Ken Dombrowski, forbid his son from playing football until high school because of the toll he knew it could take on a young man’s body. By the time Brandyn was allowed to play, he was fully determined to make the most of it.
Lanny Littlefield, Green Valley’s coach at the time, said he remembered his offensive line featuring at least three players who weighed more than 300 pounds. They all had size, but no one was as committed as Dombrowski.
“He was very strong and his work ethic was unreal,” Littlefield said. “Everything we did, he worked harder than everyone else.”
That included the weight room and the practice field. Dombrowski said he still cherished those days.
“To be honest, I think about it all the time,” Dombrowski said. “Remembering where I came from and playing with all your friends — coming from there and ending up here.”
Dombrowski turned a successful high school career into a scholarship at San Diego State. As a redshirt freshman, he cracked the Aztecs’ starting lineup as a guard.
At the end of his sophomore season, coaches awarded Dombrowski with the Most Outstanding Offensive Lineman award. Dombrowski did not drop off his production in his final two seasons.
“I always watched his games and watched him block,” Littlefield said. “He was very aggressive and continued to progress.”
But no NFL team drafted Dombrowski in 2008. After the draft, however, he received a surprising phone call.
It was the San Diego Chargers wanting to sign him to an undrafted free agent contact.
“They never showed any interest before,” Dombrowski said. “But to have an opportunity to play for the San Diego Chargers, I had to take it.”
Dombrowski failed to make the team last season and spent the year on San Diego’s practice squad. Dombrowski said he learned a lot about professional football through the experience.
After the season, the coaching staff approached him about moving from guard to left tackle. Dombrowski attacked the challenge with the same relentless work ethic Littlefield raved about during his high school years.
Dombrowski felt like he had a successful training camp and played well in the four preseason games. But going into Saturday morning’s workout, he didn’t know what to expect.
“In the situation I’m in, you should never feel confident or know you are going to make the team,” Dombrowski said. “You’re always on edge. You just don’t know. But I felt good about my performance.”
So did the Chargers coaches.
“I’ve always wanted to be here,” Dombrowski said. “And I’m still fighting to stay here, but it’s a dream come true.”