If the name Stefen Wisniewski sounds familiar, it should.
He is ranked as the second-best center prospect entering the NFL Draft this week, but the 6-foot-3, 313-pounder also is related to Steve Wisniewski (his uncle) and Leo Wisniewski (his father). Like Stefen, both went to Penn State – as the younger Wisniewski was reminded on a daily basis during his stay in Happy Valley.
“There definitely was a lot of pressure (going to Penn State), and it kind of starred me in the face every day actually,” Wisniewski said at the NFL scouting combine in February. “Walking down the hallway, my uncle’s picture is really big up on the All-American wall. My dad’s name is up there, too.
“So I got constantly reminded of what they had done.”
Which was a lot. At Penn State, and in the NFL. Steve Wisniewski was a two-time All-American at Penn State and then an eight-time Pro Bowl guard for the Raiders. Cortez Kennedy, the Seahawks’ Hall of Fame in-waiting defensive tackle, always listed Wisniewski as the best blocker he ever faced.
Leo Wisniewski was a nose tackle for the Nittany Lions and second-round draft choice by the Baltimore Colts in 1982. But his career ended after three seasons because of a knee injury.
“I kind of used it to motivate me, to try to match it and exceed what they had done,” Wisniewski said.
The younger Wisniewski got scholarship offers from other schools. Would father and uncle have been OK if he had opted against carrying on the family tradition at Penn State?
“Ah, no,” he said. “My dad would have been pretty upset. As it got close to the time of making a decision, he had all his old buddies calling me and telling me why Penn State was so awesome. It was pretty clear where he wanted me to go.
“So it was always Penn State and I’m thrilled with the decision. It was awesome.”
As for the next step in his follow-in-the-footsteps adventure, NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Rob Rang rates Wisniewski at No. 72 in the this draft class and projects him going in the second round to Oakland – where uncle Steve is the O-line coach.
“I grew up watching him, so I knew his style and certainly admired it,” Stefen said of Steve. “I learned a lot, just from him directly – from talking with him.
“One thing he was really known for was finishing blocks and being a nasty guy. That’s something I always try to do. I like to finish my blocks, and I’m hearing positive feedback about the way I hustle and the way I finish from people who watch me. So that’s one way I think we’re similar.”
Stefen also had his father to mentor him.
“He certainly taught me a lot about what it took to be a pro football player, without talking directly about what he played,” Stefen said. “But as far as the strength and conditioning aspect, all the technique things that go into football, he was tremendous in building me into the football player I am.”
But what about playing for his uncle?
“I think that would be awesome,” Stefen said. “I couldn’t think of a better guy to learn from. There are certainly complications any time you get coached by a family member. But I would love to certainly learn from my uncle.”