Chuck Porcelli learned many years ago how patience can pay off for an athlete.
The Northwestern senior didn't have an easy time in youth football. Large for his age, Porcelli always had to play with older kids in the Naperville Youth Football League.
"When I was younger, to be honest, football wasn't my favorite sport," he said. "I still played basketball and baseball."
In high school at Montini, Porcelli was a freshman when the Broncos won their first state championship in football. The total has since grown to four.
"Chuck was really a tall, gangly kid; really not that coordinated yet," Montini coach Chris Andriano said. "He's improved tremendously. His senior year, he had a really good year for us."
Then at Northwestern, Porcelli spent four years as a backup. His meager playing time came in blowouts, goal-line situations or special teams.
Not getting on the field is a pretty reliable sign that the NFL is not in your future. At Northwestern, especially, it can be a cue to focus on academics.
But Porcelli refused to give up and now as a fifth-year senior, he won the starting spot at right guard. He was on the field for every snap in the Wildcats' comeback wins over Syracuse and Vanderbilt.
"Absolutely, I did not come here thinking, 'I got a scholarship, I'm done now. I'll settle down,'" Porcelli said. "I've always been a backup my career here, but that made me work harder.
"Watching guys like Al (Netter) and Pat (Ward) play so well. Watching guys like Ben (Burkett) and Brian Mulroe, hanging out with them, rooming with them and everything.
"It motivates you to push them and they'll push you too. They will get you better as you get them better. You develop strong relationships with those guys. That kind of motivates you to get better every day and come in ready to work."
Netter and Burkett graduated -- Netter is on the San Francisco 49ers practice squad -- and those spots were filled by Porcelli and Fremd graduate Jack Konopka at left tackle.
"He's always had a tremendous attitude. I think that's the hallmark of Chuck Porcelli," NU coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "He comes in every day with a lot of excitement and energy to be here."
Speaking of energy, Andriano remembers Porcelli winning a Guitar Hero contest during high school, besides being a memorable dancer.
Porcelli's father, Charles, played offensive guard at College of DuPage and then Miami, Ohio. So it was probably just a matter of time before the love of football kicked in with Chuck. Eventually, the tall, gangly kid learned to appreciate the power of moving defenders.
"As you get older, you see how much fun it is," he said. "One day it just clicks for everybody.
"(College football has) been tremendous. I love everything about Northwestern. If I had to do it again, I absolutely would. Absolutely worth the wait."