INDIANAPOLIS – The Packers already have one former Wisconsin Badger playing tight end in Lance Kendricks.
If they’re interested in another, Troy Fumagalli could be on their radar.
Fumagalli is the latest in an impressive line of tight ends to come out of Madison over the last dozen years, a list that includes Owen Daniels, Travis Beckum, Garrett Graham and Kendricks, who joined the Packers a year ago after six seasons with the Rams.
Whether or not Richard Rodgers re-signs with Green Bay as a pending free agent, the Packers have a need to refortify the position for 2018. Fumagalli is a mid-round prospect who said on Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine that he’s met with several tight ends coaches from around the league, including Green Bay’s Brian Angelichio.
“You get to talk about your film, talk ball with them,” Fumagalli said. “They see how you learn and how you mesh, things like that.”
Scheduled to work out in Indianapolis on Saturday, Fumagalli believes he’s made a decent impression so far. He realized at the Senior Bowl in January that coming from Wisconsin’s pro-style offense helps him understand plays and concepts pretty well, and he’s got a well-rounded game to offer.
Over the last two seasons for the Badgers, Fumagalli caught 93 passes for 1,126 yards and six touchdowns while also performing a key blocking role in Wisconsin’s traditionally stout running attack.
“I want to show I love the game and that I’m a complete tight end,” said Fumagalli, who's as sure-handed as they come despite having only nine fingers, losing the index finger on his left hand at birth. He estimated he dropped only one pass per season at Wisconsin. “I’ve been asked over the years to run block, to pass block, to catch.
“Just being reliable, being there whenever (the QB) needed me, that’s something I always took pride in. Clutch situations I want to be that guy. I want the ball in my hands. I want to make a play for them.”
Fellow Big Ten tight end Mike Gesicki of Penn State feels the same way. A higher-rated prospect, Gesicki isn’t as accomplished a blocker as Fumagalli, but his basketball background brings another level of athleticism he believes quarterbacks can count on.
A native of New Jersey, Gesicki actually played on an all-star basketball team in high school with Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, the top-rated offensive line prospect in this draft. He even quit football at one point in high school, after being beat out for the starting quarterback job, thinking he’d focus on being “the next Vince Carter.”
But after trying receiver and finding out he “likes catching touchdowns,” Gesicki began using the basketball skills to his advantage.
“When that ball is in the air, I think it’s mine,” Gesicki said. “I don’t believe in 50-50 balls. It’s more like 80-20, in that range. Jumping comes naturally to me.”
Gesicki credits a rough sophomore year at Penn State for getting him to this stage. He overcame a year full of dropped passes and other setbacks to explode statistically with 105 receptions, 1,242 yards and 14 touchdowns over his final two seasons for the Nittany Lions.
“I’m here today because of that year,” Gesicki said of his low point as a collegian.
Fumagalli’s growth was steadier and less flashy, having built his 6-6 frame from 220 pounds entering Wisconsin to 247 at his combine weigh-in. Also 6-6, Gesicki weighs a tad more. The two share an appreciation for Cowboys veteran tight end Jason Witten and the professionalism he brings to the position.
“I love Witten, I love Heath Miller. Chris Cooley is here with us (at the combine), that’s kind of cool,” Fumagalli said. “I like those old-school tight ends that can do it all, that are kind of bad-asses.”
A native of Illinois, Fumagalli grew up a Bears fan, but his roots in Wisconsin are now nearly as strong. He’s one of six Badgers at the combine and has been working out in Phoenix with a former teammate, linebacker Jack Cichy.
After the Packers went 13 consecutive years without drafting a Badger, they’ve now done so twice in the last four drafts, selecting receiver Jared Abbrederis in 2014 and linebacker Vince Biegel last year.
Who’s to say if Fumagalli is next, but he wouldn’t object.
“I love the Packers, love what they do with the offense,” he said. “I’d love to stay at home in Wisconsin.”