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The last laugh

Posted Apr 23, 2012

Wisconsin center Peter Konz has overcome blood clots, a dislocated ankle, a disappointing bench press showing at the Combine and some good-natured ribbing along the way. Now he may become the latest Badgers offensive lineman to get selected early in the NFL draft.

Editor’s Note: Chargers.com will take a look at one player from each position group with an interesting or compelling story as the NFL Draft approaches. We’ve already profiled Brian Stahovich, DeQuan Menzie, Coby Fleener, Melvin Ingram, Matt Kalil, Luke Kuechly and Trent Richardson.

SAN DIEGO – Engulfed by talents like 2011 Chicago first-round pick Gabe Carimi at Wisconsin, easy-going Wisconsin center Peter Konz may finally become the center of attention.

Konz has been subjected to some good-natured ribbing and criticism since arriving in Madison in 2008.

As a redshirt freshman in Hawaii for the 2009 regular-season finale, Konz complained of chest pain. His fellow linemen, many of them NFL-caliber players, including Carimi, teased him. When it got worse, Konz went to the training room. The linemen teased him again.

 “I was telling him, ‘You better suck it up. I don’t want to play center. Stop being a baby,’” Seattle Seahawks guard John Moffit told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Konz spent the night in a Honolulu hospital with blood clots in both his lungs and missed months of physical activity. Early detection prevented a more serious result.

The Badgers’ oblivious teasing is a product of a competitive, ruthless culture of offensive lineman at the university, which has produced 13 NFL draft picks since 1999. Since ’96, Wisconsin’s five starting left tackles turned into four NFL draft picks, three first-rounders and consensus All-Americans and two Outland Trophy winners.

A Rimington Trophy finalist and a member of several All-America teams, Konz believes he too has positioned himself well for the NFL draft. He helped the Badgers run for 235.6 yards per game and 48 touchdowns in 2011.

But the Wisconsin offensive line’s mauler personality sets expectations high, and when Konz managed just 18 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press at the NFL Combine, he heard from critics.

“The kid from Wisconsin disappointed me a little bit,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “He only benched 225 (pounds) 18 times, which I don’t understand for an offensive lineman that was an All-American coming out of the Wisconsin program. I don’t get that one.”

Come next week, Wisconsin center Peter Konz may get the last laugh.

Carimi proclaimed his own greatness at the 2011 Combine and came across as cocky in his media interview before being drafted 29th overall, a slot of which Konz is well aware.

“With Gabe, he was top dog at Wisconsin. You know, Outland Trophy winner. Great guy,” Konz said. “He was a great leader. If we could just get one more spot above him … It’s something we (Konz, Kevin Zeitler and Josh Oglesby) thought would be funny just because he was so competitive.”

Speaking of which, Konz admitted at the Combine bench press isn’t his strength, the majority of which comes from his lower body. With fellow Big Ten rival and center David Molk of Michigan pressing 41 reps, Konz couldn’t have enjoyed facing questions comparing the two in Indianapolis.

Coming off a dislocated ankle, Konz wasn’t able to do much on-field work for scouts, further narrowing his focus on the bench press results.

He put the number 18 to bed at his pro day, pumping out 23 repetitions.

“If I told you I was going to work on it, I really am,” Konz told the Wisconsin State Journal. “I’m not going to just tell you something and not do it.”

While Konz did not run the 40-yard dash at his pro day, it appears his ankle has healed. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound center hopes his 30 college games loom as large as his frame in the minds of NFL evaluators.

Konz recently started to study the Book of Mormon and crammed 18 credit hours into the fall semester so he could graduate this spring. He’s also getting married, and he was conscientious enough to write a letter to Wisconsin’s fan base explaining his decision to declare for the draft early.

But if anything, Konz epitomizes the attitude of Wisconsin’s offensive line. A Sports Illustrated profile in October featured an anecdote of him repeatedly blasting a scout team lineman onto his backside during practice, then saying he didn’t feel bad, calling it a “caveman” spirit.

“I’m the complete package. The guy deserving of that first-round status and a guy who will come in and immediately help, not somebody who’s going to wait around,” Konz said. “Somebody who’s going to go after it and get it right away.”

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