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UW lineman make their mark on NFL

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By Jeff Potrykus
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Saturday, April 8, 2017

MADISON--Just minutes after Wisconsin finished its ninth practice of the spring Friday, coach Paul Chryst and assistant Bob Bostad visited with the highest-paid guard in the National Football League:

Former UW standout Kevin Zeitler.

Zeitler, a graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran High School who played at UW from 2008-’11, was in town for an alumni gathering that featured more than 100 former players.

Taken in the first round of the 2012 draft by Cincinnati, No. 27 overall, Zeitler recently signed a five-year, $60-million deal with the Cleveland Browns.

“Maybe I’ll get my own recruiting poster now,” Zeitler joked afterward.

Zeitler is part of a group of talented linemen currently flourishing in the NFL after starting out at UW.

That group includes:

Cleveland left tackle Joe Thomas, the No. 3 overall pick in 2007 who has made the Pro Bowl in each of his 10 seasons and is bound for the Hall of Fame. Thomas is in the midst of a seven-year, $80.5 million deal.

Dallas center Travis Frederick, a first-round pick in 2013. Frederick is a four-year starter who last August signed a six-year, $54.6 million deal.

Detroit tackle Rick Wagner, taken in the fifth round in 2013 by the Baltimore Ravens. After developing into a solid right tackle with the Ravens, Wagner recently signed a free-agent deal for five years and $47.5 million.

Ryan Groy signed in 2014 with the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent. He moved to New England, Tampa and Buffalo and recently signed a two-year, $5 million deal with the Bills.

All five players grew up in Wisconsin.

“When people come to Wisconsin to play here, they care,” Zeitler said. “They grew up with this. They know it. It is important to them.

“And when you’re an O-lineman it doubles. Let’s face it, Wisconsin is O-line (university).

“When the O-line is good, these teams just fly.”

Chryst was asked if his staff is able to use the success of those players to sell recruits on UW.

“First of all you are fired up for them,” Chryst said. “You know what went into it.

“I think what it shows your current players is, if you do things the right way and give yourself a chance, you don’t know what is going to happen.

“I think Kevin is a great example—a guy who did everything he could to give himself the best chance.

“It is pretty neat that he’s not the only one. You don’t have just that one guy who becomes the poster child for it.”

Zeitler, Frederick, Wagner and Groy played under Bostad, who was UW’s offensive line coach from 2008-’11.

“Bostad is a monster,” Zeitler said. “I think it is obvious. He got us good. He got us believing we could do anything.”

Bostad is back for his second stint at UW, this time coaching inside linebackers.

Zeitler predicted UW’s centers and guards will be tested in camp because Bostad is known for being a demanding coach who gets the most out of his unit.

“It is going to be quite a battle during training camp,” Zeitler said, “linebackers vs. interior of the O-line.”

Cephus returns: Freshman wide receiver Quintez Cephus, whose father was shot to death earlier this week, returned to practice Friday.

Cephus had been in Macon, Ga., along with wide receivers coach Ted Gilmore.

Cephus’ father, Andre Taylor, was shot Monday after a dispute outside a grocery store. He died Tuesday afternoon.

“It is a hard time for him,” said Chryst, adding that Cephus will return home next week for the funeral. “I think it was good for him to be back around the guys. I think everyone—coaches, players—you want to be there for him.”



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