LAKE FOREST – Bears general manager Phil Emery entered the media room inside of Halas Hall on Thursday and headed for the microphone.
On his way, Emery passed a few dozen bags of chips, soda cans and bottled waters that adorned a side table. He bypassed all of the freebies, including the water, which had caught my eye a few minutes earlier.
The bottles were medium blue with dark blue labels. On the labels, “DEJA BLUE” was printed in orange, all-caps letters. A Bears logo was printed just above the “D.”
The scene was kind of perfect.
Because I couldn’t help but experience a case of déjà blue – er, déjà vu – when the Bears selected Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller with the No. 14 overall pick.
This place seemed familiar. Had I been here before? Where was I, anyway?
The déjà vu feeling should be seen neither as compliment nor criticism, by the way.
Fuller could turn out to be a terrific long-term cornerback in a league that lacks such players, or he could turn out to be a swing-and-a-miss bust. Or he could turn out to be a serviceable player who falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.
Truly, I have no idea. None of us do, really. Until we get to Bourbonnais and beyond, all we can do is blabber and speculate about how Fuller will fit with the Bears.
Here’s what I know for sure. For better or worse, Fuller is a classic Emery top pick.
Because when the Bears went on the clock at No. 14, three or four players’ names were at the top of mind for most draft observers. Sure, the St. Louis Rams had selected defensive tackle Aaron Donald one spot earlier, but multiple options remained for the Bears as they looked to get younger and more athletic on defense.
How about Louisville safety Calvin Pryor or Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix? Both players were available. How about Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley or Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan? At cornerback, Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard had created some early buzz and had been pegged as a mid-first rounder.
And then the Bears selected Fuller.
Déjà vu had arrived.
Immediately, I was reminded of the Bears’ first-round pick from one year earlier. Emery caught people off guard by selecting a player named – wait a minute – Kyle.
“I was at a game, live, that I got to watch Kyle,” Emery said, describing his latest pick. “I knew that day, that’s the type of player I wanted to represent the Chicago Bears.
“He was playing Georgia Tech that day and they line him up as an inverted safety and ran him through the A-gap against an option team to crash the mesh point between the quarterback and fullback, and he repetitively did that.”
Quick, does anyone have an Emery-to-English translation guide?
You don’t have to crash the mesh point to realize that Emery has total confidence in his scouting team and his coaching staff. Yes, drafting a safety would have made for happy talk-show fodder on Friday morning, but Emery stuck with his instincts and bypassed the top two safeties for the player that he believed was best for the Bears.
The same approach brought Kyle Long to the Bears in 2013 and Shea McClellin to the Bears in 2012. Long looks like he’ll be a great player for a long time, while McClellin has shifted to linebacker in a bid to save his young career.
Fuller said he was willing to do anything to help the Bears, including play safety. Emery put that talk to rest right away, describing Fuller as a cornerback who had the ability to play in nickel coverage and get into the backfield when necessary.
“We see him as a guy that has a lot of versatility in terms of coverage, in terms of covering different types of athletes,” Emery said.
Again with the déjà vu. Two years ago, Emery stood in the same building and quieted position-related questions by declaring Shea McClellin as a defensive end.
Not long after Fuller was selected, he called Halas Hall from a cell phone, and the Bears’ media-relations staff patched him through to the speakers. Fuller’s voice contained the perfect blend of youth, excitement and nervousness.
“It means a lot,” said Fuller, a four-year starter in college. “Being able to come in and play for a great organization like the Chicago Bears, it’s definitely a blessing and I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
All of it sounded so familiar.
Had I been here before? Where was I, anyway?
• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.