INDIANAPOLIS — Last year it was Kevin Zeitler and Peter Konz who represented the Wisconsin Badgers offensive line in the NFL Draft. Two years ago, it was Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt.
Carrying on the Badgers tradition of solid NFL offensive line prospects in 2013 is Travis Frederick and Ricky Wagner.
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“Wisconsin has prepared me quite a bit well for this jump,” Frederick said Thursday at the Combine. “I wouldn’t have made the jump as a junior had I not been in a perfect spot to do it. Wisconsin has prepared me to do that. Spending four years there and learning under three different offensive line coaches, I learned a lot of different things and I was able to put those together and I think that’s helped me a lot.”
There was some buzz surrounding Frederick this week for a couple reasons. From a football perspective, the 6-foot-4, 338-pound lineman from Sharon, Wisc., is expected to be the first or second center selected in April’s draft. From an appearance perspective, Frederick’s scraggly, unkempt beard gained him a different kind of attention.
Unintended fashion statements aside, Frederick could follow in Zeitler and Carimi’s footsteps as a first-round pick.
“It’s a dream come true to be here,” Frederick said. “I was a young player coming out of a 550-kid high school in a little town in Wisconsin. To grow up and have an opportunity like this is a dream come true. I didn’t have a lot of offers going into college or anything like that. I was kind of a non-recruited player and got a chance. Wisconsin gave me a great chance and then prepared me extremely well for this opportunity.
“You want to be able to do everything that you can to give back to that program that’s given you so much.”
Before making the trip to Indianapolis for the Combine, Frederick made sure to get advice from a couple former Badgers offensive linemen who had recently gone through the draft process.
“I leaned on Kevin a little bit more than Pete,” Frederick said, “but it was an important part to me to be able to reach out to the other Wisconsin alumni that are in the NFL and get their experience one, in the NFL, and two, their experience at the Combine and just what it takes to move from a college player to a professional. All of those guys presented some really good advice and helped me get to where I am today.
“They told me that the Combine is just something you need to be natural at. You need to go and be yourself. Show teams who you are. Don’t try to fake it because they already know everything. They spend hours and days recruiting and scouting to find out exactly who you are.
“I’m getting calls from people from my hometown in Wisconsin. It’s the biggest thing ever. The NFL called and checked on my background or something like that. Everybody back home is really excited. It’s a great opportunity.”
While Frederick conducted his press conference from one of the podiums at the Combine to accommodate the large turnout from reporters, Wagner sat at a small table with less fanfare.
But that was not the only difference between the two. It seemed as though Frederick would have been comfortable sharing lengthy, somewhat personal stories all day with the media. Wagner was, well, a tad more brief.
“The last six, seven years we’ve had a lot of success coming to the draft and I definitely want to be a part of that,” Wagner said, then waiting for the next question.
Wagner was asked to address many of the same topics as Frederick. Wagner, also a Wisconsin native, was well aware of the tradition of Badgers offensive linemen in the NFL.
“The whole legacy there is one of the reasons, but it’s been a dream of mine always to go to Wisconsin,” Wagner said. “I’m so happy I got five years there, and I cherish every moment.”
Unlike Frederick, there’s nothing Wagner could possibly do at the Combine to convince a team to draft him in the first round. Wagner is projected as a late-round pick, with the fifth round likely being his best potential outcome.
“I don’t pay attention to mock drafts or anything like that,” Wagner said. “It’s not the time for that. I can’t control what they’re picking me at. Only matters in late April.”
Another difference in the behavior and attitude between the two lifelong Wisconsinites was the way in which they handled the expected question about potentially being drafted by the Packers.
“I grew up being a Packers fan,” Wagner said. “In Wisconsin, it kind of comes with the territory. That would be a great situation.”
Frederick didn’t respond with the same way.
“I would say any of the 32 teams is going to be a great opportunity for me,” Frederick said. “I’m going to be able to go out and make my mark on a NFL team and hopefully go out and play for a championship-caliber team.”