When the Packers hired former linebacker Chris Gizzi to become a new strength and conditioning assistant coach in early February, they didn't know he'd be able to add such an impressive accomplishment to his résumé.
Last season Gizzi filled the same role at the University of North Carolina, a program that produced the top bench press performer at the recently completed NFL Combine.
Tar Heels offensive lineman Russell Bodine put up 42 repetitions on the 225-lb. bench press in Indianapolis this past weekend, the most of any player regardless of position.
Bodine said of Gizzi, "He was a great guy. He was always available. Anything you wanted to ask, he was there for all the players."
Even though Bodine said Gizzi didn't frequently work with the offensive linemen, the strength and conditioning program at North Carolina obviously did something right.
In addition to the bench press, Bodine also had a top five vertical jump (29 inches) and a top six broad jump (109 inches) among offensive linemen, not bad for a guy weighing in at 310 lbs.
Gizzi played linebacker for the Packers for two seasons in 2000 and 2001. An Air Force Academy alumnus, he might best be known for leading the team out of the tunnel carrying the American flag in the first game after the 9/11 attacks.
After his playing career, Gizzi owned and operated the Atlas Performance training facility in downtown Chicago from 2010 to 2013 before getting back into the NFL by interning with the Packers during the 2013 offseason and training camp.
Perhaps appropriately for a guy who finished first in the drill that best measures power and brawn, Bodine says he plays with a mean streak.
"I really just think my toughness is probably my main attribute," said Bodine. "I'm a scrappy player. You put on the film, you see I'll put put you on the ground. I'm going to go after you; I'm going to get a little bit more.
"So I think that's an attitude you have to have as an interior lineman. It's a little bit of a dog fight in there, and you have to be prepared to play in that environment if you think you're going to play the position."
Bodine admitted he needs to work on his hand placement, and he'll have to overcome a less than ideal arm length of 32 1/2 inches at the next level, but there's still plenty working in his favor.
In three years at UNC, Bodine started 27 of 34 games at center but also saw action at guard his senior season, which adds to his value as someone that can line up anywhere on the interior of the offensive line.
Projected to be a mid- to late-round draft choice, Bodine's bulldog style of play might fit in a place like Green Bay that's becoming more and more of a power-oriented team, blocking in front of bruising running back Eddie Lacy.
It's also possible the Packers will be looking to add competition at center depending on what happens to incumbent starter Evan Dietrich-Smith in free agency. At the very least, Bodine could be viewed as a swing backup at all three positions on the interior.
So now that Gizzi has joined the coaching staff of the Packers, has Bodine asked him to put in a good word?
"I haven't gone that far," said Bodine, "but I'd like to think we have a good enough relationship if they asked him, he'd have positive things to say."
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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