CINCINNATI -- As of Wednesday morning, Cincinnati Bengals fourth-round draft pick Russell Bodine had yet to reach out to his former college teammate, Giovani Bernard, to see if Bernard might show him around his new city.
"He's been studying," Bernard said, chuckling.
Bodine has been so into his NFL studies that after briefly plopping down inside his two-foot wide cubby hole in the middle of the locker room just after Bernard's interview session, the 310-pound center was off to do more learning. "Sorry, I've got a meeting," Bodine told a reporter as he and three other rookie linemen wedged themselves out of their tiny auxiliary lockers.
That's OK. We'll have Bernard, the Bengals' second-year running back, do the talking. According to him, "attitude" is one thing Bodine doesn't need to learn. It comes natural.
Bernard and Bodine played together at North Carolina during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Both were redshirt freshmen in 2011 when Bernard battled back from an injury to play in all 13 games and rush for more than 1,250 yards and 13 touchdowns. Bodine earned an 83 percent grade from North Carolina coaches after playing 318 snaps in nine games.
In 2012, when Bernard paced the Tar Heels' rushing attack with a 6.7 yards per carry average, Bodine was credited with having 122 key or knockdown blocks. He also was credited with 11 blocks that resulted in touchdowns, and helped anchor an offensive line that led the Tar Heels to have the country's No. 14 total offense. He was easy to overlook on the line that year with All-American right guard Jonathan Cooper and all-conference left guard Travis Bond playing on either side of him.
Still, for the ones who were in the huddle and on the field with him, Bodine stood out.
"You could see when he played, his mentality and how much he wanted to have big plays here and there," Bernard said. "His attitude and how he played and his aggression kind of translated to everyone on the offensive line."
Some might consider that "attitude" to be a nasty one, and one that could draw the ire of officials, not to mention anger opposing defensive players.
"I like that," Bernard said. "He's one of those guys he's always going to watch for his guys. He's never going to let anyone bully on a guy or whatever it may be. He's always going to clean up the pile. If we get a flag here and there, it's OK. I'm joking. But he has that aggression, he has that go-getter attitude that I love. All our offensive line is like that. That shows they just don't want to be messed around with. They want to be able to play and they want to do what they can do."
Bodine has a good chance to start at center for the Bengals as they look to adopt a nastier, more physical style of play. In the wake of Kyle Cook's release this offseason, the Bengals are looking for a new starter at the position. Bodine's primary competition for now appears to be Mike Pollak, a versatile interior lineman who was re-signed to a two-year deal in March.