With Scott Wells on the free agent tour of a lifetime and likely to leave Green Bay, it’s imperative the Packers fortify the center position in the draft.
One possibility is Wisconsin native Peter Konz, the University of Wisconsin star who’s a possibility to go in the first round. A second possibility is another Wisconsin native, Northern Illinois standout Scott Wedige, who is projected as a late-round prospect.
Like Konz, Wedige earned All-American honors in 2011, though in the relative anonymity of the Mid-American Conference. Wedige, a native of Elkhorn, Wis., started at center for his final two seasons. Even while being an all-MAC selection in both seasons as a starter and being selected to play in the inaugural NFLPA all-star game, it wasn’t until the school’s recent pro day that it hit Wedige that his professional dreams could become his reality.
“I had no idea I had a shot (at the NFL),” Wedige told Packer Report this week. “In 2010, I got first-team all-conference but had no idea (that scouts were interested). I thought I was playing well. After I got first-team all-conference, a couple agents started calling me. ‘We’d like to represent you for the NFL.’ And I’m like, ‘What? Me? The little kid from Elkhorn, Wis.?’ I was like, ‘Holy crap, here we go.’ But it never really became real until my pro day.’”
The Packers were one of seven teams in attendance on Friday. Wedige was happy with the results, which included a 5.10 in the 40-yard dash and 25 reps on the 225-pound bench press, though he said he’s done better in training.
“I think I definitely helped myself,” he said. “I definitely think it opened some scouts’ eyes and hopefully it will move me up some draft boards.”
“I talked to pretty much every team at our pro day and they say I moved well,” he added. “They liked how I was able to bend, my flexibility, as well as my overall athleticism. They said I had very good feet and rolled my hips through very well in different drills. I think they were very happy with that and very happy with my overall strength, because some teams didn’t think I was as stonrg as what I was. I got a few nonbelievers to become believers.”
Playing center is as much about intelligence as physical skill. Take the Packers’ Wells, for instance. One reason why Green Bay’s offense was so dominant is because of Wells’ and quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ ability to diagnose whatever the defense was trying to do.
It was much the same at Northern Illinois with Wedige and All-American quarterback Chandler Harnish.
“In our offense at Northern Illinois, I had a ton of responsibilities, from calling out the front, calling out blocking schemes, calling out our pass protections, some of our audibles for blocking schemes,” Wedige said. “A lot of it relied on me rather than on Chandler so he could look for his keys instead of the offensive line stuff. They put a lot of trust in me to make the right calls.”
Obviously, he would jump at the opportunity to play for any team, but his interaction with a Packers scout last week had a little extra meaning.
“Their scout was extremely nice,” Wedige said. “Because I’m a Wisconsin guy, we talked about hunting a little bit and football in general. He asked if I was a Packer fan and I told him I was born into a Packer family. It was good and definitely surreal for me to talk to a Packers scout, because it’s been my dream since a little kid to play for the Packers.”
Wedige might have been caught off-guard about his NFL potential, but he fully believes he’s up to the task. It starts with the work ethic and toughness instilled by his father and the intelligence and need to do the “little things” taught by his mom. His performance against players from football powerhouses like Oregon and Notre Dame at the NFLPA game only ampified that belief.
“I think I have a great opportunity to play a long time in the NFL,” he said. “I’ve got a great work ethic and a great head on my shoulders to propel me in this league. I’m excited and extremely happy for the opportunity at hand.”
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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 email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.