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Published: Thursday, 4/28/2005

Pats' rookie Kaczur is no youngster

OK, trivia buffs.

You have to be fast on your feet.

Name the player who had the highest yards-per-carry average in last weekend's NFL draft.

Ronnie Brown? Cedric Benson? Cadillac Williams? Maurice Clarett?


It was Nick Kaczur, the lumbering lumberjack from Canada.

Kaczur, a 6-5, 320-pound offensive lineman, averaged a whopping 24.5 yards per carry for the University of Toledo.

He had two total rushing attempts, and both came on fake punts last year. One jaunt went for 26 yards, another for 23.

Kaczur's running days are behind him now.

The two-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots are counting on him to help open some holes for running back Corey Dillon.

The Patriots picked Kaczur in the third round of the NFL draft Saturday. He was the 100th player taken overall, going one spot ahead of the controversial Clarett.

Kaczur was a dominant left tackle at UT, where his primary responsibility was protecting the quarterback's blind side.

He is flexible enough to play tackle or guard in the pros.

"I think I am versatile in that way," Kaczur said on draft day. "I am able to come in and play both positions."

The Patriots, who also took offensive lineman Logan Mankins from Fresno State in the first round, did their homework on Kaczur. Twice, they came to town to work him out before the draft.

"I think Nick and the Patriots are very comfortable with each other," UT coach Tom Amstutz said yesterday. "I wouldn't be surprised if he went in there and pressed for playing time right away."

Kaczur is older and more exper ienced than just about any rookie anywhere.

He will be 26 in July, right around the time the Patriots open training camp.

"He got a little bit of a late start in his career," New England coach Bill Belichick said. "Believe it or not, I think he is our oldest lineman. But I don't think that is a big deterrent.

"He's a smart guy, a tough guy. He's got a good motor."

Kaczur had poor grades in high school and didn't graduate until he was 19. Then he worked construction for two years, earning $12 an hour.

He was 21 when he enrolled at UT in January of 2001. Within months, he became the first true freshman to start on the offensive line for the Rockets in 23 years.

Kaczur made 51 starts overall and finished as the school's first four-time All-Mid-American Conference honoree.

He is from Brantford, Ont., which also happens to be the hometown of hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky.

Kaczur dabbled in the sport briefly, but gave it up because he was too clumsy.

Still, hockey remains king in his hometown, even in its sad state.

Football is an afterthought.

"I heard Gretzky had a charity event a few years ago and they invited Nick back to participate," Amstutz said. "Gretzky warmed up, jumped out onto the ice, took a spin and then headed off.

"He said, 'I'm not going back out there until that creature leaves the ice.' So they kicked Nick out."

Amstutz was joking, of course.

But his tale is a lot like Kaczur - it keeps getting better with age.

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