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Zeitler taken in first round by Bengals

Waukesha native, Badgers product on to NFL

May 1, 2012

Waukesha County and the NFL Draft extended their relationship another year.

Waukesha native Kevin Zeitler, who transformed himself from an honorable-mention All Conference selection in the Big Ten as a junior to an NFL prospect, was selected with the 27th overall choice in the 2012 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. The former offensive lineman at Wisconsin Lutheran High School and a guard on the vaunted line that made running back Montee Ball a Heisman Trophy finalist is the second Waukesha County native in two years to go in the first round.

The Bengals participated in the draft-day trade frenzy Thursday, trading down to the 27th slot after shipping the 21st pick to New England in exchange for No. 27 and a third-round pick. Earlier, the Bengals selected Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick with the 17th pick, a selection that came to the Bengals as part of a trade involving quarterback Carson Palmer and the Oakland Raiders last year.

"He's a very, very efficient blocker," Cincinnatioffensive line coach Paul Alexander said in an Associated Press story. "You don't realize he's in there because you don't see a lot of error.

"If you went fishing and you're sitting on the lake all day, some guys after a half-hour you want to throw them in the water," Alexander said. "This guy, you could sit out there with him all day."

Zeitler started 37 games at Wisconsin and did not allow any quarterback sacks during his career. According to Cincinnati.com, his streak of 13 straight 90 percent-plus blocking consistency performances in 2011 set the school record, formerly held by offensive tackle Joe Thomas, who had nine, in 2006.

Thomas, a Brookfield Central graduate, also became a first-round pick by the Cleveland Browns and has been named to five Pro Bowls.

"I know they got to the playoffs last year," Zeitler said on a conference call. "I know they have Andy Dalton at quarterback and A.J. Green at receiver, and they were effective last year. That's really all I know. I have a lot to learn."

Last year, the Houston Texans made Pewaukee High School grad and Zeitler's former Wisconsin teammate J.J. Watt the ninth pick in the draft, and the defensive end had a strong season, finishing with an interception returned for touchdown in the playoffs - defeating Cincinnati in the opening round.

Zeitler took a quantum leap forward as a senior. He was named first-team All-American by AFCA and Pro Football Weekly, second team by Yahoo! Sports and honorable mention by Sports Illustrated. He was also consensus first-team All-Big Ten.

"There's been a great tradition that's been built here with great linemen," Zeitler told WaukeshaNOW earlier this year. "They get a lot of respect, and it's more of a focal point (than it would be on another team). Everyone comes up here and wants to live up to the tradition and keep that going. They don't want to be the one to make that disappear."

Zeitler started in back-to-back Rose Bowls with the Badgers, losses to TCU and Oregon.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis heaped praise on Zeitler at Bengals.com.

"Kevin Zeitler comes out of that Wisconsin offensive line group, which as we know, has been outstanding year after year after year. The guy has versatility. We can use him to play guard and as a backup at center. He really has done a great job in the gap-blocking, zone-blocking and pulling - he's done a lot of good things on film. He's one of those guys that, when you put the tape on, he really stands out."

Wisconsin Lutheran won the state title in 2007, when Zeitler was a senior.

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