FOXBORO, Mass. — Two years ago, quarterback Tyler Palko was cut in the preseason by the United Football League's California Redwoods. Now, Palko is gearing up for his first career NFL start against the Patriots on Monday Night Football.
There's no telling how his momentous event will play out on national television. He's only attempted 13 NFL passes since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2007. And Palko has been released by three NFL teams. His journey also led him to the Canadian Football League for a brief stint with the Montreal Alouettes, who let him go in order to sign with the Steelers in November 2009.
"I guess it's been a long time coming," Palko said of his first NFL start. "But I guess when you're really entrenched in it, you really don't think about how long it is. You set a goal, and my goal was to be a starter in the NFL, and I'm getting my opportunity right now. When you set a goal, I guess the way I was raised, you don't really worry about [the end result]. Just focus on the process and trying to get better every day. That's really the only thing I've tried to focus on. I'm not saying it's been easy, because it hasn't. But if it's something that you want to do, and you want it bad enough, then you're going to do anything you can to stick around."
Palko, a lefty who started over Joe Flacco at Pitt, spent time with the Saints, Cardinals and Steelers before joining the Chiefs in 2010. Palko's journey is so bizarre that he had a two-month stretch in 2009 in which he played for the UFL, CFL an NFL — in that order. And two months after getting cut by the Redwoods, the Steelers signed him as a backup.
"It's football, and there's no blueprint on anything," Palko said. "Whether you want to be a teacher, a garbage man, whatever you want to do, there's no blueprint on getting where you want to go. There are obstacles. There's adversity you need to overcome, and it's just the way that life is. Anyone that has ever accomplished anything great has had to overcome some obstacles, whether it's at the highest level in the NFL, or like I said, whether it's being a garbage man.
"Everybody in life has to overcome their own adversity and their own personal struggles. You can never really knock anyone's struggle on how they've gotten there, why they got to the situation you're in. I can't explain it. I don't sit back and try to make sense of everything. You live your life a certain way, and you work hard and try to do good for other people and whatever happens along that line, you control those certain things you can control. Everything else kind of works out, either good or bad, and you have to deal with it on either end."