The Bears have had some extremely notable successes with players moving from a college position to a different one in the NFL. They hope that Brandon Hardin, a cornerback through high school and most of his career at Oregon State but now a safety with a Chicago Bears C on his helmet, is the latest in that distinguished record:
Jerry Azumah college running back to Pro Bowl kick returner and cornerback;
Mark Bortz college defensive tackle to Pro Bowl guard;
Brian Urlacher college safety to Pro Bowl middle linebacker;
James Big Cat Williams college defensive tackle to Pro Bowl right tackle.
Its always tough when you make any transition, said coach Lovie Smith. But you just look at some of the skills he has: great size for a safety. Hes a physical player as he played corner. So thats what were looking at there.
For Hardin, who missed his senior season with the exception of a Senior Bowl appearance, the change has not been a tough sell Exactly the opposite in fact.
It's been going great, said Hardin, the last of the Bears draft choices to get a contract in place. I've definitely been learning a lot. Since I am playing a new position, there's a lot to learn, a lot of coaching, but I think it's going really well so far.
I was actually looking forward to it. Even in college I was oversized for corner. With my physical size, I'm more suited for safety, so I was open to the change, and it's been a nice change and so far it's working out well.
Rookies are expected to be upbeat even amid any butterflies or intimidation. But Hardins impression of Hardin is in line with what his coaches are seeing.
With just some slight reservations.
Just coming into this league is an adjustment, said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Now youre moving a little so of course theres some adjustment. But hes a big athlete, good speed, nice range, good ball skills, so now its just getting him the work, knowing what to do and letting his skills come alive.
Any enthusiasm needs to be put in context, because we only have two defenses in right now and havent seen a lot, Marinelli said. Right now hes just trying to build the skills, the keys, what to look at, angles, tackling, all those things. Were just getting a start with him but hes a big, talented kid who can run.