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Potential Ravens target Peter Konz enjoys being center of attention

Peter KonzFootballSportsReligion and BeliefWisconsin BadgersBaltimore RavensChristianity

Most of his offensive-line brethren would absolutely hate this.

After all, linemen live in a world where they're talked to only when a yellow flag flies in their direction or their quarterback is on the ground. Beyond that, they're rarely singled out. They usually don't hold court with the media. They certainly don't charm or joke.

But there was Peter Konz on Friday at the NFL scouting combine, his 6-foot-5, 314-pound frame wedged behind a folding table that was surrounded by men and women holding notebooks, cameras, microphones and tape recorders. And Konz, the former Wisconsin Badger, never stopped smiling as he discussed religion, his coming marriage, his preferred form of trash talk and the confluence of events that led to his becoming a center.

"My major is radio-television-film. I love it. I don't know, I love attention," said Konz, frequently mentioned as a Ravens target with the 29th pick in April's draft. "As a kid, my mom would put on [former Green Bay Packers quarterback] Brett Favre interviews, and I loved how he didn't talk about, 'Well, we played a great game. We gave 100percent. We respect the other team.' I wanted to break that cycle. I wanted to be that guy to say, 'You know what? I've got a personal story. I've got more tied into this game than somebody else might have.'"

Konz's personal story includes growing up in a small town in Wisconsin and being raised by a single parent. His mother taught students with behavioral and emotional disabilities at a local high school, and Konz was a frequent guest in her classroom, helping encourage and motivate kids.

He's developed a love of movies and music, an acute curiosity about other cultures and religions, and a strong interest in communicating with anybody who will listen. He's also considered the best center in the draft class, and his combination of size, strength and smarts is expected to make him the latest Wisconsin offensive lineman to be taken in the first round.

"I think he's the best center in the draft," said Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler, who is also hoping to hear his name called in the first or second round in April. "I don't think there's anyone who can really compete with him."

Saturday's news that Matt Birk, the Ravens' starting center for the past three seasons, has informed organization officials that he wants to return for another season rather than retire probably doesn't change a whole lot in regard to the team's perceived interest in Konz.

Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said earlier this month that the team will add another center whether Birk returns or not. Konz also could play guard -- which would allow him to serve as a one-year stopgap if Ben Grubbs leaves -- and then become the long-term successor to Birk, a player he has been compared to because of their similar stature.

"I'd be happy to play in Baltimore. I'd be happy to play anywhere," said Konz, who called comparisons to Birk an honor. "Plug me in and I'm happy."

That was his mantra in 2009 when several events thrust Konz up the Badgers' offensive line depth chart. John Moffitt, now with the Seattle Seahawks, had torn a pectoral muscle that summer. Bill Nagy, now a Dallas Cowboy, had been involved in a moped accident. Travis Frederick, a top backup at the time already forced into starting duties, rolled his ankle.

Offensive line coach Bob Bostad said, "'Hey, next center in.' He grabbed me from the tackle spot and threw me in at center, and I never looked back," said Konz, who played in two Rose Bowls. "It's awesome. I love having the ability to make the calls, to make the adjustments, to be that center guy and to be able to communicate with everybody and get things going on the right track."

Konz's communication skills and his outgoing and gregarious personality allowed him to emerge as a leader on a Wisconsin team that featured Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball and decorated quarterback Russell Wilson.

He said the time spent with his mother's students taught him that you have to communicate well and learn how specific people will react to certain things. To reach somebody, Konz will turn to laughter, common interests and motivational words.

Konz boarded a plane for the combine last week carrying the Book of Mormon. He said he was raised Episcopalian and baptized in a church not far from Lucas Oil Stadium, where he participated in workouts Saturday. However, he said he likes reading the quotes and passages, and several of his friends are Mormons. He's able to discuss what he reads with them.

"I try to develop my personal life a lot outside of football, try to add more things to my life," Konz said. "There's something to be said about the stories. I try to add things to my life just to make me walk a straight path."

In a group interview Friday that lasted about 15 minutes, Konz showed he could be serious and introspective, engaged and amusing. He recalled a play in the Rose Bowl against Oregon where one of the Ducks started jawing at him just before halftime.

"He's shorter than me, so he gets under my helmet and gives me the stare-down, trying to throw me off my game or whatever," Konz said. "I'm staring at him and then I realize just how ridiculous this was, and I just break my strict pose and go, 'Hi.' He just breaks out laughing. I think I took him out of whatever he was trying to do."

Konz's hope is to hear his name called April 26, the first night of the draft. But he's already learned so much and gained enough perspective where such things don't consume him.

That was evident when, after making a decision to forgo his senior season and apply for the NFL draft, Konz wrote a letter to Wisconsin fans that was posted on the school's website. He thanked Badgers fans, explained his decision and revealed that he had taken 18 credits in the fall semester in order to graduate, which satisfied a promise he had made to his mother that he would get a degree before starting his professional career.

"It's just an honor to be picked. I think I'd have some personal issues if I think it would be horrible to go in the second round," Konz said. "You try not to think about it too much at the time, because you don't want to jinx anything, but it's a dream come true. Coming from a little kid wearing Packer and Dolphins jerseys to getting ready to wear an actual NFL jersey, that's an honor."

Notes: Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict, whose draft status has taken a major hit largely because of questions about his maturity, said he had a "pretty good" meeting with Ravens officials Saturday night. Burfict, who called himself the best linebacker in the draft despite the fact that most projections have him going in the second or third round, said the Ravens' Ray Lewis is his role model and that playing next to Lewis would take his game to the next level. … Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith said he has a formal meeting set up with the Ravens today. … Former Maryland running back Davin Meggett ran an unofficial 4.5 40-yard dash in his workouts Sunday.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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Peter KonzFootballSportsReligion and BeliefWisconsin BadgersBaltimore RavensChristianity
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