Lucas at Large: Hard-working Zeitler content with low-profile role

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FB_110810_Zeitler_Kevin.jpegIt's a question that comes up frequently on blue collar football teams.

UW coach Bret Bielema shared his answer.

"If you asked our entire roster who's the hardest working guy on the team,'' Bielema said, "I bet you Kevin Zeitler would get more than half the votes; he's so respected for that.''

Senior offensive tackle Josh Oglesby has been counting votes, too.

"I would say he'd get 99 percent,'' Oglesby said. "Kevin is the first guy there and the last guy out. He's always doing extra stuff when no one is watching. His work ethic is unmatched.''

Zeitler, a senior right offensive guard from Waukesha, volunteered a definition.

"Work ethic to me,'' he said, "is no matter what the job is, no matter how minimal it is, no matter how small the details, you give it full effort and you make sure it gets done perfectly.

"My parents always had a great work ethic and I kind of took to the next level in high school (Wisconsin Lutheran) when I realized that I wanted to play college football -- somewhere, anywhere.

"That's when I dedicated myself to the task and it kind of took a form of its own.''

Others have influenced his work ethic, including former UW defensive tackle Mike Newkirk.

"I followed his example,'' Zeitler said. "He was always there (the weight room) doing extra things. Whatever I have to work on -- certain muscle groups or positional stuff -- I try to attack it.''

Does Zeitler, who has started 22 of the last 26 games, feel like he outworks people?

"I feel like I do; I come close if I don't,'' he said. "I try to take advantage of every situation. This past summer was probably the busiest I've ever had, but I got done what I needed to get done.''

Besides strictly adhering to his lifting schedule and taking eight credits in summer school, Zeitler worked on the Camp Randall Stadium grounds crew and also took on some odd jobs back home.

Whether he was power washing and staining a deck, or gutting a house for a makeover -- unglamorous jobs that you would link to Zeitler -- he was preparing himself for his senior year.

"It's going to be sad to see him go because he sets a level of practicing at that position that is second to none,'' said Bielema, adding that Zeitler has never given up a sack at Wisconsin.

Not that many would know that about Zeitler since he carries such a low profile.

"Kevin is definitely under the radar,'' Oglesby said. "But I would say he's our most solid offensive lineman. You know what you're going to get out of him day-in and day-out.

"He might not get the credit that he deserves but people who actually watch and know football know that Kevin is a tremendous asset to this team.''

Whereas former UW All-American left guard John Moffitt was a media darling with his quick wit and media accessibility, Zeitler is simply not in the same discussion; nor does he want to be.

"We are definitely different personalities to say the least,'' Zeitler said. "Moff and Gabe (Carimi) made jokes in the meeting room all the time. I'm just going to be who I am.''

During Sunday's media day, Zeitler sat on a folding chair next to center Peter Konz, a free spirit.

"Like Peter over there, that's his thing,'' said Zeitler, pointing to Konz, who was surrounded by cameras and loving every second. "He wants to be in the media. He has just a great personality.

"Me? I always say if it comes (more media recognition), it comes. I do my job and if someone notices, awesome. And if they don't notice, well, that's still my job, that's what I do.''

Carimi and Moffitt liked to tease Zeitler by calling him a "robot.''

"I feel like I've worked on being human a little bit more,'' Zeitler said with a trace of a smile. "A lot of people have said I've opened up since I've been here.

"I do like it (talking to the media). I think it's cool when I do get a chance to get interviewed because it's more new to me than anything else. I'm always up to talk to anyone. I'll give answers.''

Seniority takes precedent with the seating chart in the McClain Center auditorium.

Zeitler sits in the front row next to Oglesby. Both are on the clock, and across from them is the clock ticking down the seconds, minutes, hours and days to the Sept. 1 opener against UNLV.

"I stare at it sometimes,'' Oglesby said. "This is going to be my last season opener. It's crazy.''

"I'm excited,'' Zeitler said, "because it's my last go-around and I'm just ready to go to work.''

You knew that Zeitler would find a way to get "work'' into the answer.

That's his job, and the way he goes about it, whether he's on anyone's radar or not.

"It really doesn't bug me that much,'' he said, shrugging.

Someone's paying attention. Zeitler is on the Outland Trophy and Lombardi Award watch lists.

"My goal is to have the best season I possibly can; individually and as a team,'' he said. "I can't get any more specific. I want to do my job the best I can.''

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Why do the Badgers have to play at Michigan State 2 years in a row?