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Andrew Quarless remembers his Uniondale roots

Green Bay Packers' Andrew Quarless (81) is congratulated

Green Bay Packers' Andrew Quarless (81) is congratulated by Jarrett Boykin (11) after catching a touchdown pass during the second half of a game against the Atlanta Falcons. (Dec. 8, 2013) Credit: AP

GREEN BAY, Wis. - The dig route. A hitch. A flag route. A skinny post.

Andrew Quarless may have refined all of these pass patterns at Uniondale High School and Penn State and with the Green Bay Packers, but he first tested them while playing on the streets of Brooklyn, just outside of his grandparents' house.

"My talent came from playing in Brooklyn, playing on one-way streets," said Quarless, a tight end now in his fifth year with Green Bay. "The streets are tight and you have to make people miss you. So I used to love going out there.

"Any time I was on my grandmother's block, I was playing with the kids out there. We had such tight quarters and had to make people miss, and that was tough. I just know those tight quarters and one-way streets made it a lot harder and helped make me a lot better."

Today, things have ended up far better than Quarless ever envisioned.

He was a member of a Super Bowl-winning team as a rookie after the 2010 season. He's made it back from a devastating knee injury that robbed him of four games in 2011 and the entire 2012 season. Today, he's the longest-tenured member of Green Bay's tight end group.

Quarless, who enters Sunday's game against the Jets with 59 career catches, isn't a star, but he's a steady, reliable veteran whom Packers coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers can count on week in and week out.

"I think considering the amount of time Andrew spent outside the locker room rehabbing his injury, he's done a good job of getting his strength back in his lower body and his speed really hasn't been affected," Packers tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said of Quarless. "He's been a diligent worker and he's done everything we've asked him to do as far as preparing. There's certain things he can still get better at. But he's always got to be accounted for when he's on the football field."

That's always been the case for Quarless.

He was born in Brooklyn and moved to Long Island when he was a toddler. The second of Duncan and Demovia's four children, he vividly remembers going to Jets training camp when he was "5 or 6." His parents knew one of the assistant coaches, and after one practice, Quarless got to go out on the field.

"That was huge, my first time seeing NFL football," Quarless said. "And basically I grew up on the Jets. When I was young it was definitely Jets, Jets, Jets."

As a Uniondale senior, Quarless earned second-team all-state honors. He picked Penn State over other powers such as Miami (Florida) and Michigan.

The Packers selected Quarless in the fifth round of the 2010 draft and he caught 26 passes that season as Green Bay won the Super Bowl for the first time in 14 years.

Later that year, Uniondale Avenue in his hometown was renamed "Andrew Quarless Way."

"That was definitely an honor," Quarless said. "It was really humbling, just to see the block where you used to run around. Definitely an honor. Just an amazing feeling. Just a lot of pride involved."

These days, Quarless is just as proud to be back on the field and leading Green Bay's young and inexperienced tight end group.

He suffered a gruesome tear of two knee ligaments late in the 2011 season, and his career hung in the balance. After missing nearly two full calendar years, he caught a career-high 32 passes last season.

Quarless (6-4, 252 pounds) isn't a blazer. His blocking remains a work in progress. But he finds a way to get open and has the trust of his quarterback.

"I just think Drew has a very level head and he never gets too up or too down," Packers tight end Ryan Taylor said. "He's quiet, doesn't say too much. But he's a great guy to have in the room. He understands the playbook really well and he's a guy you know what you're going to get out of."

Quarless has never lost sight of his roots, either. He returns home multiple times each year, where he tells youngsters that anything is possible.

"I never take it for granted. I'm really blessed to play this game, and to make it to this level, I'm thankful every day," Quarless said. "Whether it's Brooklyn or it's Long Island, I'm just trying to let them know it's possible.

"There's not a lot of times you make it out. Growing up, there are times you look to street dudes or stuff like that, because it's all you know. That's all you really see. But any time I'm back home, I at least try and touch a few people in any type of way. Just try and make an impact."

Quarless has done that -- in both Green Bay and New York.

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