The Green Bay Packers need a center, and the best of this year's class grew up about 45 minutes from Lambeau Field.
That would be Peter Konz, who was a two-time all-state selection at Neenah High School.
"It was small and we didn't have very many guys go Division I and we don't have a lot of guys go in the NFL, so it was more important to me to go to Wisconsin and get a degree," Konz said at the Scouting Combine. "I think it was last year, I started to realize that I have a chance. You try not to think about it too much at the time because you don't want to jinx anything, but it's a dream come true. Coming from a little kid wearing Packer and Dolphin jerseys to getting ready to wear an actual NFL jersey, that's an honor."
Konz (6-foot-5, 314 pounds) is a sure-fire first-round draft choice, and with the Packers sitting at No. 28 in the first round, general manager Ted Thompson might feel compelled to move up in the first round to get him, depending on how the free agent merry-go-round of centers winds up. According to a source, Konz was on the Packers' short list of first-round possibilities following Senior Bowl personnel meetings. Thompson has seen plenty of Konz in his scouting work and watched him again at the Badgers' pro day earlier this month.
His path to the NFL was born of necessity at Wisconsin. He was recruited to play defensive tackle and spent his redshirt season at offensive tackle before making the move inside.
"It was decided in a series of unfortunate events for other people," Konz said. "John Moffitt, who's now in Seattle, tore his pec that summer. Billy Nagy, who's now with Dallas, had a terrible moped accident that wasn't his fault. Travis Frederick, who was the backup center at that point and was playing left guard for us right now, was in there and he got rolled up on a play and hurt his ankle. Coach Bostad (Bob Bostad, the Badgers' offensive line coach who recently became Tampa Bay's line coach), instead of having the next center in, he grabbed me from the tackle spot and threw me in at center and we never looked back."
Not that it was without some growing pains. Playing center is as much mental as physical.
"I'm a fast learner but there's a lot of things you have to know at center," Konz said. "Not only do you have to know it but you've got to let everybody else know. That took at least a year-and-a-half. I went to guys like Moffitt and (Gabe) Carimi, who were the big guys on the line, and I asked them questions every day and I'd look in my playbook and I'd watch enormous amounts of film with Kevin Zeitler. We'd go up to the film room after every practice and go over it."
From scouts' perspective, Konz has emerged as the best center in this class and the best among the Big Ten's elite trio of Ohio State's Michael Brewster and Michigan's David Molk.
While Konz is regarded as the premier drive blocker among this trio, he has raised a few red flags among NFL teams, as he has missed action in each of his three seasons at Wisconsin with injury issues. Hoping to alleviate concerns by teams at the NFL Scouting Combine, he instead put up just 18 reps on the bench press.
He earned his first letter in 2009, starting nine consecutive games in place of Frederick at center, but was sidelined for the final two contests when he was diagnosed with a blood clot in each lung.
Konz was required to take blood thinners and as a precaution, the staff held him out of all contact drills during 2010 spring camp. Back in the lineup by the season opener, he started the Badgers' first nine games (and 11 overall) before sitting out the Indiana and Michigan contests and the second half of the Iowa clash with a severe ankle sprain suffered against the Hawkeyes.
The sophomore played in the Purdue game before the trainers shut him down for several weeks, as he spent most of the month of November on crutches and wearing a boot. He returned to the lineup for the Northwestern and Texas Christian clashes, helping the team finish second in the Big Ten Conference and 12th in the nation in rushing with an average of 245.69 yards per game.
With Konz back in the lineup for the start of the 2011 campaign, the offense was clicking on all cylinders as the ground game greatly benefitted from his blocking assignments to the tune of 3,298 yards and 48 touchdowns on the ground. However, the injury bug again sidetracked the junior, as he dislocated his left ankle against Minnesota, missing the next three games, including the Big Ten Championship game, but returned to start vs. Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
His performance in his 10 starting assignments was enough for analysts to name him a first-team All-American and All-Big Ten Conference choice. He was a finalist for the 2011 Rimington Trophy, given to the nation's top center (honor went to Michigan's David Molk). He also added Academic All-Big Ten accolades.
Wisconsin's Peter Konz.
Richard Mackson/US Presswire
Konz was a Rington Trophy finalist, earning All-American first-team honors from Pro Football Weekly and the American Football Coaches Association, adding second-team honors from Yahoo! Sports and Sports Illustrated, in addition to being chosen third-team by The NFL Draft Report and Phil Steele...The junior added first-team All-Big Ten Conference accolades from the media and was an honorable mention pick by the league's coaches…Was also chosen Academic All-Big Ten…Konz started eleven games, but in the Minnesota clash, he dislocated his left ankle and sat out the Illinois, Penn State and Michigan State/Big Ten Championship Game before returning to the lineup vs. Oregon in the Rose Bowl…Behind his stellar blocking, the Badgers generated 3,298 yards with 48 touchdowns rushing, an average of 235.57 yards per game…With Konz in the lineup, the team rushed for at least four touchdowns in each of the Nevada-Las Vegas (four scores and 241 yards on the ground), Northern Illinois (four touchdowns and 266 yards), North Dakota (five scores and 267 yards), Nebraska (five touchdowns and 231 yards, Indiana (332 yards/four tds) and Purdue (six touchdowns for 364 yards)…In the Minnesota game,
Konz was hurt on a running play in the fourth quarter and was taken off the field on a cart. Coach Bret Bielema said after the 42-13 victory by the Badgers that he wasn't sure how serious the injury was, but Konz' friend and linemate Kevin Zeitler said "it looked pretty bad."
Konz was a consensus All-Big Ten Conference honorable mention and a first-team Academic All-Big Ten choice…Selected to the ESPN Academic All-District team…Was a member of the Rimington Trophy Watch List…Missed the second half of the Iowa game and sat out vs. Indiana and Michigan contests with an ankle sprain…Followed the match-up vs. Iowa, he tried to return to action vs. Purdue, but re-injured his ankle and left the field on crutches and wearing a boot…Started eleven games, as the Badgers ranked 12th in the nation and second in the league with an average of 245.69 yards per game rushing…
Called blocking assignments for a front wall that ranked 18th nationally, allowing just fourteen sacks for minus 95 yards during the course of the schedule…Three of those sacks were charged to UW blockers while Konz was out of the lineup.
Konz was named first-team Freshman All-American by The Sporting News, and was selected an Academic All-Big Ten Conference performer…In his first season with the varsity, he was inserted into the starting lineup in the third game, vs. Wofford, going on to play with the first unit for the next nine contests…He had made his collegiate debut in UW's second game vs. Fresno State, when he took over for an injured Travis Frederick in the pivot…Missed the final two games vs. Hawaii and Miami when doctors discovered blood clots in both of his lungs…Helped the Badgers finish 15th in the nation and lead the conference in rushing, averaging 203.85 yards per game…The front wall allowed 23 quarterback sacks, but only none came from the center position while Konz was manning that spot during 340 pass plays.
Redshirted as a freshman…Originally recruited as a defensive lineman, Konz was shifted to the offensive line during practices season...Was named UW's offensive scout team player of the week prior to the Fresno State clash.
2009 Season…Konz missed the Badgers' final two games vs. Hawaii and Miami after doctors discovered that he had a blood clot in each…Required to take blood thinners, the coaches decided to withhold him from contact drills during 2010 spring camp.
2010 Season…Missed the second half of the Iowa contest with an ankle sprain…Came back the next week vs. Purdue, but left the stadium on crutches and with his leg in a boot, sitting out the next two contests vs. Indiana and Michigan.
2011 Season…Konz dislocated his left ankle on a running play in the fourth quarter of the Minnesota contest and was taken off the field on a cart…Sat out the next three games vs. Illinois, Penn State and Michigan State before he returned to the lineup vs. Oregon in the Rose Bowl.
5.16 in the 40-yard dash…1.75 10-yard dash…2.93 20-yard dash…4.59 20-yard shuttle… 7.67 three-cone drill…30 1/2-inch vertical jump…8'9" broad jump…Bench pressed 225 pounds 18 times…33-inch arm length…9 1/2-inch hands…79 1/2-inch wingspan.
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Dave-Te Thomas has more than 40 years of experience scouting for the NFL. At NFL Scouting, Thomas handles a staff that evaluates and tests college players before the draft and prepares the NFL's official Draft Packet, which is distributed to all 32 teams prior to the draft.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.