Getting to know ... Frank Zombo

Posted Feb. 04, 2011 @ 10:18 p.m.
Posted By Keith Schleiden

As Super Bowl Sunday quickly approaches, a key position remains a question mark. OLB Erik Walden is the only Packers player listed as a questionable, as he has been trying to get over a high ankle sprain.

If Walden can't go, who gets the start? Rookie OLB Frank Zombo.

Frank who? Unless you are a close follower of the Packers, that's a reasonable question.

Zombo went undrafted last April after spending three years as a starter at Central Michigan. With 25½ sacks during his collegiate tenure, he's the school's No. 2-ranked sack man of all time. But that wasn't good enough to be high on the radar of NFL scouts.

He quickly exceeded expectations in Green Bay, though, becoming a consistent starter at right outside linebacker after starting OLB Brad Jones went down for the season with a shoulder injury on Oct. 24.

"Guys like myself were given opportunities and, regardless of if you're a young guy or a free agent, you've got a job to do, and your team and your city are counting on you to perform that job," said Zombo in the days leading up to the Super Bowl. "With coaching and all the resources we have in Green Bay, we were able to do that at a high level."

Zombo recorded 67 tackles, four sacks, six tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and seven QB hits in eight starts. But then something that is all too familiar to the Packers this season happened — he got hurt. Zombo missed the final three regular-season games and each playoff game thus far with a knee injury.

"It was pretty depressing," said Zombo. "Especially going from starting and playing well. You want that back. It's addicting. Playing in the NFL, you want it so bad. Now I'm just glad to be back playing again. I was pumped these last few practices, being able to run around and be with the guys again and feel a part of the team. Hopefully I can get out there on Sunday."

Packers GM Ted Thompson, who believes in building through the draft — and the undrafted free-agent market — is pleased with what he's seen from players like Zombo.

"I'm proud of these guys," said Thompson. "They've stepped in and played, and lot of people didn't know who they were. But that doesn't mean they can't play. Tramon Williams was a college free agent, and he's turned out to be a pretty good player. Cullen Jenkins was a college free agent, and he's turned out to be a pretty good player. It doesn't matter how you start; it matters what you do with it."

We'll see on Sunday what Zombo does with it on the biggest stage of all.