Scott Tolzien

Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien throws as he runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Michael Conroy — Associated Press

Former University of Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien would like nothing more than to have his nose buried in an NFL playbook.

Any other year and that's likely what Tolzien would be doing, getting a head start on making an NFL roster the only way he knows how — by preparing, studying and working as hard as he can.

But these are not typical days in the NFL, so after not getting picked in last weekend's NFL draft, Tolzien spends his time throwing to former teammates inside the McClain Center and waiting for the chance he believes will come.

"That's a big part of it, which sometimes flies under the radar. People forget how much the next level is mental," Tolzien said.

"I just know when that thing's ready to go, I'll make my decision and that will be the first thing I prioritize is get my hands on one of those (playbooks), so I can start studying it."

Five picks into the seventh round on Saturday, the New York Jets selected Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy. Many draft analysts had Tolzien or Delaware's Patrick Devlin as the top remaining quarterback.

Tolzien was watching the draft at his parents' home along with a couple of friends in Rolling Meadows, Ill., a Chicago suburb. For the next 46 picks, no another quarterback was taken; McElroy was the 12th and final QB selected.

"I went in thinking I was going to be late round or free agent," Tolzien said. "It's always tough seeing guys at your position picked over you. But that's the reality. Now, it's just kind of a waiting game, waiting to hear from teams once the lockout gets figured out."

Tolzien heard from three teams, which he declined to name, in the seventh round. That suggests he will have some options when the lockout ends and undrafted free agents can sign with teams.

The benefit to being an undrafted free agent, as opposed to a late pick, comes in having a say in where you land. Tolzien still believes that's the case, even with the lockout.

"It's in your hands, basically," he said. "You have to do your homework on the teams, find the best fit."

Another problem for undrafted free agents is the NFL's veteran free agency period has not started either. That could make it harder to assess the best situations.

"It does kind of change the dynamic," Tolzien said. "Instead of having a depth chart that's finalized, you're going to be making some guesses and you're going to be going off some people's words.

"But there's no contractual agreement. They might tell you they're only going to sign you (at a position), then might go out and sign someone else, too."

Tolzien's agent is former UW offensive lineman Joe Panos, who has started the process of examining NFL rosters while looking for the best fit.

The only job for Tolzien is to remain prepared for when the lockout ends.

"The minute that thing is settled you've got to be ready to bounce," he said. "The window of opportunity is getting smaller, so you've got to be ready to grind it out much faster and get it down much faster. It's going to make a big difference.

"If you're a draft pick or not, when camp starts you need to be able to perform."

The situation is somewhat reminiscent of what Tolzien went through after high school. He didn't get an offer from UW until the weekend before signing day.

He arrived with low expectations and made almost no noise until winning the starting job in fall camp as a junior, vaulting from third to first on the depth chart.

He was 21-5 as a starter the past two years, setting a school record for completion percentage (68.1) and quarterback efficiency rating (153.2).

He isn't considered to have a strong arm, but he has worked in the last couple of months to improve his throwing motion.

"I feel better than ever, as far as how I feel physically," he said. "I couldn't be happier, I have zero regrets as far as my training from the end of the year on. I feel like I made some huge strides. I'm excited just to hopefully show teams what I've got."

Tolzien made the most of his last-minute chance with the Badgers. He is now hoping for a similar chance in the NFL.

"All you can ask for in life, whether it's football or another job, you just want an opportunity," he said. "I think we can all go to bed at night, feeling good if you have given it your best shot.

"That's all I can do is get that opportunity and give it my best shot. At the end of the day, if it's not meant to be, it's not meant to be. But you just want an opportunity, that's the main thing."