Zombo Embraces 'Surreal' Chance

Frank Zombo, the No. 2 sacker in Central Michigan history, is competing with fellow undrafted rookies Tim Knicky and John Russell. The Packers have an obvious opening at outside linebacker, a position they elected not to fortify during last week's draft.

If only every day for Frank Zombo was like that chilly late November afternoon.

In his final home game at Central Michigan, Zombo — the Chippewas' star defensive end — dropped into coverage. He almost never did that, and Northern Illinois' quarterback threw it right to him. Zombo ran back the interception 27 yards for the clinching touchdown.

Zombo was a three-year starter who ranks second in school history with 25.5 sacks, including 6.5 as a senior. He went undrafted and wound up signing a rookie free agent contract with the Packers. He's one of three college defensive linemen who were signed to add depth at outside linebacker. Dropping into coverage is now a staple of his role on the defense.

"It's kind of still surreal, just being here and looking in the mirror and seeing a Packers helmet on or a Packers jersey," Zombo said after Sunday's practice. "To see how far I've come, it's quite an accomplishment. I'm just going to keep going with it."

At just shy of 6-foot-4 and 254 pounds, Zombo certainly looks the part in his new role. He was listed at 269 in college, and Zombo said the weight loss has helped him adapt to his new role. Zombo, a three-time academic all-region selection, quickly latched onto Kevin Greene, who he called a "heck of a coach."

Zombo, who's making up for his skin-deep knowledge of the playbook but going all-out on every play, fell into a good situation with the Packers. Behind presumed starters Clay Matthews III and Brad Jones, only veteran Brady Poppinga has anything resembling an NFL resume. The other holdovers are Cyril Obiozor, who, like Zombo, Tim Knicky and John Russell, was an undrafted free agent, and Robert Francois. Francois was a late-season addition to the practice squad and is competing at this weekend's rookie camp.

"My agent (Robert Walker) recommended it," Zombo said of his decision to sign with Green Bay. "The tradition here is second to none. And their situation at outside linebacker, hopefully I can help out this year."

"When you're a free agent, that's what you look for," Zombo said of the apparent opportunity in front of him. "You don't want to go to a place where there's a lot of players at your position, because the chances of making the team are slimmer. That's why you hire an agent. He figures that out."

Zombo, Knicky and Russell are all stationed in the back corner of the auxiliary locker room. Maybe one of them makes the final roster.

"It's kind of hard to think of it like that," Zombo said. "We're just developing as good friends and trying to help each other out. We're only in Day 2 and I already feel like we're a bunch of old buds. We eat together. We're creating a pretty good bond."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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