Considering the Central Michigan pipeline to Green Bay, it’s worth paying attention to Chippewas linebacker Nick Bellore.
A Wisconsin native from Whitefish Bay, Bellore is generally regarded as the top prospect to come out of Central Michigan this season and a probable late-round draft choice.
Despite not coming from a power conference, the Chippewas have done a surprisingly good job at placing players in the pro ranks.
“From Dan LeFevour, Frank Zombo and Josh Gordy and Antonio Brown,” said Bellore at the NFL Combine in February. “And even before that, guys like Joe Staley, Dan Bazuin and Drew Mormino, we’ve always had a lot of offensive linemen especially.
“It’s huge, and I think it really rubs off year to year. And it’s awesome for us seniors to have that kind of exposure.”
Zombo and Gordy join Cullen Jenkins as three Central Michigan alums who were all part of the Packers run to the Super Bowl this past season, a high number for any one NFL team to have so many players from the same college.
It speaks volumes for a program from the Mid-American Conference to have so much success preparing players for the next level.
“I always keep up with Frank and Josh Gordy who’s a corner… And Cullen Jenkins has obviously been a great player for them for a number of years,” said Bellore. “And even James Starks, I’ve played against him a number of times [at Buffalo]. That’s always awesome to see those guys do well.”
Being a bit older, Jenkins didn’t play with Bellore at Central Michigan, although the Packer defensive lineman did speak to the team before one of their couple appearances in the MAC Championship game over the course of his of Bellore’s college career.
Bellore was teammates with both Zombo and Gordy during their 2009 conference title winning season including a win over Troy in the GMAC Bowl and an appearance in both Top 25 polls to end the season.
The pair of current Packers have passed advice along to Bellore about his path to the NFL.
“Neither of those guys went to the Combine,” said Bellore, “but they just said that you can’t get too caught up in all of this. You’ve got to compete as hard as you can.
“But at the end of the day, I’m going to get a shot to make a team and no matter how, which way it takes me, I have to make the best of that opportunity and go from there.”
Bellore is an inside linebacker who said his calling card is always being around the ball and a reputation as being a hard-nosed player.
Perhaps there was no better example of this style of play than the 2010 game against in-state rival Western Michigan when Bellore went to make a routine tackle behind the line of scrimmage on the first possession of the game.
His chin strap caught his lip and tore his jaw from molar to molar inside his mouth requiring 16 stitches.
“I stayed in,” said Bellore. “It was the Western Michigan game. You don’t come out for those kind of games.”
He missed the next week’s game against Navy with the stitches still inside his mouth, the only game he missed in his four-year career as a Chippewa.
Bellore said he interviewed with the Packers as the East-West Shrine game.
So will his former teammates put in a good word for him in Green Bay?
“I hope so,” said Bellore.