LAKE FOREST – No pressure, Jon Bostic.
The Bears drafted you Friday as the likely long-term replacement for Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker. You know, Urlacher, the guy who wore No. 54 for 13 seasons on the lakefront and eventually became one of the best players in franchise history.
That’s saying a lot, too, because the Bears have had a bunch of great players.
More specifically, the Bears have had a bunch of great linebackers.
“They have linebackers for days,” Bostic said on a conference call after his selection.
Actually, the Bears have linebackers for years. Decades. Coming up on centuries.
Urlacher. Dick Butkus. Mike Singletary. Clyde “Bulldog” Turner. Bill George. George Connor. Wilber Marshall. Otis Wilson. Lance Briggs.
The list goes on and on.
By the way, Singletary and George both were second-round picks, just like you. They’re both in the Pro Football Hall of Fame now.
No pressure, kid.
You’ll join veterans such as Briggs, D.J. Williams and James Anderson as the newest member of the Bears’ linebacker corps. Briggs will turn 33 years old this winter, Williams will turn 31 this summer, and Anderson will turn 30 this fall.
You’ll have an opportunity to win a starting job as a rookie, according to general manager Phil Emery, one of your new bosses. No matter what, you’ll be relied upon as a key special teams player, and you’ll be expected to emerge as a starting linebacker before too long.
You were the fourth linebacker to be selected in the second round, following Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o to San Diego, LSU’s Kevin Minter to Arizona and Oregon’s Kiko Alonso to Buffalo. But you stood out, Emery said, because of your football smarts, speed, ability to play three linebacker positions and special teams prowess.
“He fit the bill,” Emery said.
You certainly did well as a four-year member of the Florida Gators, for whom you made all of the defensive play calls. You started 32 of 51 games at middle linebacker and registered 237 tackles, eight sacks, 19 ½ tackles for loss and five interceptions.
You’re young – happy 22nd birthday a week in advance – and you’re fast, clocking an impressive 40-yard dash time of 4.61 seconds. The Bears badly needed youth and speed at linebacker, although they did consider selecting a cornerback in Round 2.
It appears that your hard-nosed skill set will fit in nicely with the Bears’ mentality.
According to a CBS scouting report, you are an “instinctive, physical football player who doesn’t back down from a challenge. … Closes with aggression, bringing his hips and driving through the ball-carrier to flash the ability to make the big hit. Seems to enjoy the physicality of the game, rushing to take on fullbacks and pulling linemen. ”
That sounds great.
But it’s one thing to hit hard in college football – albeit in the SEC, by far and away the toughest conference in the country. It’s another thing to square your hips and blast into opponents in cities such as Green Bay and Minnesota and Detroit.
The Bears think you have what it takes.
That’s why they selected you at No. 50, ahead of Kansas State middle linebacker Arthur Brown, who went to the Baltimore Ravens six picks later.
It turns out that you have a few things in common with Brown. As you follow Urlacher, Brown will try to follow in the footsteps of a legend named Ray Lewis.
“I know it’s going to take a lot of work,” Bostic said.
We’ll check back in a decade or so to see how it’s going.
• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.