COSTA MESA, Calif. — Rookie Dan Feeney has been dreaming of this moment his entire life, maybe even since he was 6 years old and first saw quarterback Tom Brady in a New England Patriots uniform.

Flash forward 18 years and the Los Angeles Chargers guard is scheduled to make his first NFL start on Sunday — against Brady and the Patriots.

“It is definitely a little crazy,” Feeney said.

Feeney was selected in the third round of the draft out of Indiana, where he was a four-year starter and two-time All-American.

He was unable to win a starting job in camp, but starting left guard Matt Slauson injured his biceps last Sunday against the Broncos. Slauson will have surgery and is out for the season.

So now the position falls to Feeney, all 6 foot 4 and 310 pounds of him.

The Chargers had been working him into the past few games, and he played much of the second half last Sunday after Slauson got hurt.

“When we started playing him a couple weeks ago and he went into games, there was no drop-off,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said. “We knew that he could play and wanted to get him more involved. And now he’s starting.”

Of course he’s not pleased by the way he got the opportunity. It was the veteran Slauson who largely helped Feeney with his transition to the NFL.

“Slauson’s been a big mentor for me and obviously it’s a shame what happened to him,” Feeney said.

“There’s always something to work on. Having these older guys teach me is one of the biggest things. There aren’t too many situations Slauson hasn’t been through.”

Feeney was thought to be an accomplished run blocker when he first arrived to camp. It is his pass blocking that has been a focus by the Chargers.

The Patriots know well a rookie will be making his first start Sunday and are expected to test him immediately. Slauson figures it comes with the territory.

“That’s the nature of the game,” he said. “That’s how it goes. You see some kind of weakness, you try to attack it. Obviously you have to expect it and be ready for it and prepare for it, and make them not right.”

Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt thinks the Chargers have prepared Feeney as best they can.

“He’s been very professional in his preparation the whole year,” Whisenhunt said. “I like that (offensive line) coach Pat Meyer and coach Lynn have been working him in and he’s gotten some snaps in games, just preparing him for a situation where this could happen.

“Finishing off the game (Sunday) the way he did, he played well. Now it’s the next challenge for him, which is having to start. We feel good about it, feel comfortable with him because of what he’s done.”

For Feeney — who played football and volleyball at Sandburg High School in Orland Park, Ill. — it is the culmination of a long dream. Maybe just not one he envisioned happening against the defending Super Bowl champions with Brady still at the quarterback.

“At the end of the day we are just out there playing football, playing the game we loved as a little kid,” Feeney said. “It definitely hits you, but at the same time you have a job to do and people relying on you.”


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