North Carolina center
Now that Russell Bodine has rounded out the trivia trinity of Ki-Jana Carter and Matt Schobel (name the players the Bengals traded up to get in the draft), once and future teammate
“When you have one of those guys that’s very physical and very kind of in-your-face, it’s always good for an offensive line,” says Bernard, the Bengals running back and Bodine’s teammate at North Carolina. “He’s a guy that’s not going to back down from anyone. That’s the kind of guy you want on your team.”
The word after the Bengals moved up 12 spots in the fourth round to take Bodine is that he’s stronger than new rope and no-nonsense like a stopwatch with a nasty streak longer than the wait for a May NFL Draft.
On the field.
“l like to think so,” Bodine says. “To play football you have to have a switch. Turn it on when you go on the field and turn it off when you go off. Off the field you can horse around, joke around, be a nice guy. But on the field, you have to take care of your responsibility.”
In 1995, the Bengals moved up to No. 1 overall to take the best player in the draft in Carter. In 2002, the Bengals, without a tight end, traded up in the third round to get ahead of Detroit at the last instant for the last starting caliber tight end in Schobel. On Saturday, the Bengals were neither flashy nor last-ditch. They were AFC North calloused.
“He’s worth it,” says offensive line coach Paul Alexander. “He’s a guy that, honestly, we’ve been looking for for some time. He’s got a little different style. They’re all good players. But he’s one we’ve kind of been looking for.”
The Bengals haven’t had a big, mauling center since one of the best they ever had, Rich Braham, saw his career end with a knee injury in 2006. The recently released Kyle Cook was good enough and strong to center four playoff lines with brains and quickness that got him to the second level. But at the end, his strength was sapped from the injuries to his legs.The AFC North nose tackles know no mercy. The trench is is a bullfight. Now comes the 6-3, 310-pound Bodine, the only guy to launch more than 40 reps of 225 pounds at the NFL scouting combine.
And don’t stand near the pile watching before the whistle blows because he’ll remind you the play’s not done.
“He reminds me of two guys,” Alexander says and for one of them he has to go back to the 1990 NFL Draft and the Chiefs’ second-round selection of Tim Grunhard. The other one is of more recent vintage. Matt Birk ended his 14-year career with the Ravens in 2012. He went to six Pro Bowls and Grunhard went to one, but Alexander is looking at the body type and style more than anything.
“Real big, strong, blocky center,” Alexander says.
There were other centers later in the draft, but Bodine was the last of the big ones that the Bengals always covet.
If the Bengals thought he was such a fit, what about his uncle? Dave Zimmerman is a former University of Cincinnati offensive line coach from the ‘80s now living in Louisville.
“He was saying through the whole process ‘Bengals, Bengals, Bengals,” says Brian Bodine, Russell’s father. “He’s absolutely ecstatic. He’s kept his Bengals and Reds’ tickets. He’s got six kids and they were Bengals’ fans before. Now they’re really Bengals fans.”
If Russell Bodine can figure out the Xs and Os, he certainly has the DNA.
Dave Zimmerman was a center at Rutgers in the mid-60s and his brother Pete followed him to play nose tackle for the Scarlett Knights. Another brother, Hank, played center at William and Mary. Brian Bodine played tackle and guard at Trenton State.
Russell’s mother, Gail Bodine, topped them all as the first All-American field hockey player at Boston’s Northeastern University for a team that won the ECACs. And his sister Kaitlyn is making a run as a softball pitcher for Queens University in Charlotte, N.C., after being named Freshman of the Year in the Conference Carolinas last season.
“He’s got potential,” says Brian Bodine, a hint of a laugh coming from Scottsville, Va.
Scottsville is where the Bodines settled about 25 years ago. Brian, a teacher, and Gail, a physical therapist, saw the athleticism early and enrolled Russell in Fork Union Military Academy for sixth grade. Brian followed him a year later to teach math and coach junior varsity football.
But he wouldn’t coach Russell.
“When it comes to football, you can either be a father or you can be a coach. But sometimes it’s tough to do both,” Brian says. “We felt it was a great place for him. He was always an aggressive kid and bigger than the other kids. It’s all boys with heavy athletic concentration and he did really well there in both academics and football.”
Russell Bodine, who graduated with a 3.8 GPA, counts four players from Fork Union that got drafted: Bodine, Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde, Towson State running back Terrance West and Virginia tackle Morgan Moses. His father says eight more signed as free agents.
Brian Bodine says the school is in the middle of nowhere and they live 14 miles away in the middle of nowhere. There are two stop signs between here and there.
“It’s in the middle of nowhere and these kids can get it done,’ he says. “It’s a challenging regimen. From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., they’ve got jobs to do.”
Russell says some of his no-nonsense approach comes from that academy life.
“When you’re playing football, you have a responsibility,” Russell Bodine says. “There’s some of Fork Union in that. Being on time. Making sure you’re squared away and your responsibilities are squared away.”
When he got the call, head coach Marvin Lewis told him the Bengals had traded up 12 spots to get him. It’s a good thing he told him because Bodine was grilling out with his parents and two of his high school coaches and wasn’t watching the draft at that moment. He didn’t like the idea of sitting down and watching the draft with a lot of people.
“I’d come in and check on it, but I didn’t want to sit and watch it,” Russell says. “I figured they’d call me. I was just along for the ride.”
The Bengals are banking on it being a long one.