Gabe Carimi Left His Mark at UW..............
Carimi left his mark at Wisconsin
Everyone involved in program from coach down raves about Bears rookie tackle
http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/...7/63280855.jpg Offensive line coach Mike Tice meets with their first-round draft choice, offensive tackle Gabe Carimi. (Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune / April 30, 2011)
By Vaughn McClure, Chicago Tribune reporter 7:06 p.m. CDT, July 16, 2011
MADISON, Wis. — The look in Gabe Carimi's eyes told Bret Bielema all he needed to know.
As the Wisconsin coach leaned back in his office chair last week, he recalled the message Carimi, the Bears' first-round draft pick, emphatically relayed before last season's game with Iowa.
"I won't repeat the verbiage he used, but Gabe left no doubt in my mind that when in doubt, run behind him,'' Bielema said. "We did that on two drives that were instrumental in winning that game. We ran the same play to the left, I believe, six times in a row, and finally went in for a touchdown.
"Gabe took control.''
Bielema has no doubt the mammoth offensive tackle will have just as much of an impact with the Bears once he gets used to the system — no matter which side of line he ends up playing.
"I think you see him playing wherever he's needed,'' Bielema said. "Gabe's the ultimate team player. I think he took a certain amount of pride in being the left tackle at the University of Wisconsin. The only two left tackles that have played that position for me have won the Outland Trophy.''
The other was Joe Thomas, who the Browns made the third-overall pick in 2007 NFL draft. Thomas has been to the Pro Bowl after each of his seasons.
Maybe the 6-foot-7, 314-pound Carimi is destined for the same type of success.
Bielema knew Carimi was special from the moment Thomas graduated to the pros.
"Gabe stepped in the next year as a redshirt freshman and we had no issues,'' Bielema said. "How many times do you lose the third pick in the NFL draft and nobody mentions anything about left tackle play the whole year? That made a huge statement to me.''
But Bielema admitted upon first glance, he never imagined the Wisconsin-born Carimi would turn out this way.
"I wasn't even the head coach yet — I was the head coaching in waiting — when I first saw Gabe,'' the coach said. "I saw this 6-foot-5-inch, 255-pound lean, good-looking kid come into camp and really do well. But our offensive line coach at the time didn't know if he would be big enough.
"Ironically, I saw his mom and dad at the camp and I wished his dad had some eligibility, too. I told Coach (Barry) Alvarez that I really would like to offer Gabe (a scholarship). We did. Obviously, Gabe loved everything about the Badgers being so close to home.''
And Wisconsin loved everything about him.
Assistant strength coach Brian Bott raved about Carimi's enthusiasm in the weight room and how Carimi made significant strides in lower-body explosiveness last year, with his upper-body strength never an issue. (Carimi's max bench press was 475 pounds and he power-cleaned 360 pounds from the floor.)
Lisa Powell, Bielema's secretary, marveled over the genuine kindness Carimi displayed on a regular basis because he never left the office without giving a hug.
And Bielema couldn't stop talking about how driven Carimi was from Day 1.
"If there was one thing I would say he has to work on is he's really hard on himself,'' Bielema said. "When you go to the NFL and you're going against a guy like (Julius Peppers) in practice, you're going to get beat.
"But this is a very, very intelligent kid. And he's a perfectionist. He's going to have success. Believe me.''