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Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011

Auburn football: Lee Ziemba eyes crucial job interview at NFL Scouting Combine

Among 5 Tigers at NFL Scouting Combine, Lee Ziemba might have the most at stake

- abitter@ledger-enquirer.com
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AUBURN, Ala. -- The poking, prodding and endless questions that potential NFL players must endure is nothing new for Lee Ziemba. The former Auburn offensive tackle went through the circus at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., last month.

He will face Round 2 this week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in what is essentially the most important job interview of his life.

“I’ve always been told it’s a very strenuous three days and that it really wears you out,” he said. “But I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get to the next level.”

Ziemba is one of five former Auburn players who will participate in the combine, joining quarterback Cam Newton, defensive tackle Nick Fairley, wide receiver Darvin Adams and running back Mario Fannin.

The weeklong event, which runs from today until March 1 at Lucas Oil Stadium, will feature more than 300 prospects put through a ringer of drills and interviews by scouts, coaches and general managers from every team in the NFL.

Ziemba is part of the group of offensive linemen, kickers, punters, long snappers and tight ends who begin today. Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers start Friday, defensive linemen and linebackers Saturday and defensive backs Sunday.

While most of the focus from an Auburn perspective will be on Newton and Fairley, who could lock up top-five spots in the draft with impressive performances, it might be more important for Ziemba, a projected mid-round pick trying to differentiate himself from a pack of offensive linemen.

The 6-foot-8, 319-pound Ziemba began working out at Competitive Edge Sports in Atlanta after Auburn’s national championship, alongside fellow former Tigers Ryan Pugh, Mike Berry and Terrell Zachery.

“The thing about training for the combine is you’re not limited by the hours of the day,” Ziemba said. “At Auburn, you’re limited to about two hours a day. You have a strict time limit to get things done with. Here, it’s your job. You show up at 8 o’clock and train until 5, working out and lifting and running and doing football things. So that’s the biggest difference.”

Ziemba said despite rumblings that he will move to guard at the next level, every team that has talked to him has him as a tackle, either on the left side or right side.

“It’s pretty interchangeable in the NFL,” he said. “They dress out seven or eight linemen. You’re supposed to know everything.”

ESPN’s scouting report on Ziemba tabs him as a potential starter at right tackle, putting him in the third-round range. It praised his size and mobility, particularly his foot speed and quickness.

It said he must tighten his technique and do a better job of protecting the quarterback and blocking in space. Ziemba said he has tried to improve his knee bend, something taller linemen tend to struggle with.

As for the interview stage, he said he is prepared.

“They’ll ask you some personal questions about maybe who you’re hanging out with,” he said. “They like to know what to expect out of a person if they draft you. They’ll test your football knowledge. They draw up some stuff and ask you different ways to handle different situations. … I feel like I have a good idea of what to expect.”

Ziemba plans to return to Auburn for the school’s March 8 pro day, but he wants to solidify his standing with NFL teams in Indianapolis this week.

“I hope to remove any kind of doubt they may have before the draft,” he said.

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