Good football players have come from many, many different schools over the course of Chicago Bears draft history. From the top of the college world at Alabama to the lowly confines of Jackson State. The Bears know that stars can come from just about anywhere.
Still, certain schools tend to produce good players more often than other. This begs an interesting question. Which programs have historically produced the highest number of productive Bears players during the Super Bowl era?
After doing some research, I narrowed it down to a top 10 rankings. Not every player involved on the list is a star but all of them were productive in some form or fashion during their time in Chicago. Can you guess which school takes the prize?
10. Texas A&M
Brupbacher looked like he could’ve been a steal in the 4th round in 1970. In his first three seasons he had five interception and was a steady presence next to Dick Butkus. Then he abruptly left in 1973 to join the World Football League. After it folded, he returned for one season in 1976 and had seven interceptions before retiring at age 29.
Holdman was another quality find in the 4th round in 1999 and worked his way into the starting lineup his second year. He was part of that great 2001 Bears defense that guided the team to a 13-3 record.
Fontenot never gets any love in Bears history and that’s a shame. He came around as 3rd round pick in 1989 and didn’t become the starter until four seasons later. It was right around that time the team began to sink into mediocrity. Even so, his quality play at center led to one of the best offensive years in franchise history in 1995. He started 89 games in Chicago.
Harris gets overlooked because he arrived in Chicago right before Brian Urlacher did. So his efforts came at a time when the team was bad and then was gone once arguably the greatest linebacker in team history began his ascent. Even so, he had three solid years from 1997 to 2000 despite having to play different positions.
Wade was a jack-of-all-trades sort of player for two years in Chicago. He caught some passes at wide receiver, took some carries at running back, and was a nice presence on special teams.
Does Briggs really need an introduction? He’s one of the greatest outside linebackers of his generation and in Bears history. A seven-time Pro Bowler, he racked up over 1,100 tackles with 16 interceptions, and 15 interceptions. Simply calling him a Robin to Urlacher’s Batman doesn’t do his career proper service.
Becker was a dependable guard for the Bears throughout the 1980s. He was the starter at right guard in 1984 when Walter Payton broke the all-time rushing record before becoming Tom Thayer‘s backup from 1985 to 1988.
Thomas sort of reinvigorated the Bears offense during one of its most destitute periods in the early 2000s. He claimed Rookie of the Year honors in 2001 and topped 1,000 yards in two of his three seasons as the starter.
Harbaugh is remembered mostly for his coaching these days, but he was actually a pretty good football player. The Bears thought so when they drafted him in the 1st round in 1987. Though his numbers weren’t great, he went 35-30 as their starter and got them to the playoffs twice.
07. Ohio State
Most people look back at Spellman as a bad pick. That’s not true. Sure he didn’t become a star as a former 1st rounder, but the defensive end was a productive starter for their defense across six years, collecting 32 sacks.
Bell has to still wonder what his career might’ve been like had he not chosen to hold out on a new contract in 1985. He was coming off a Pro Bowl year at safety where he had four interception. His decision to sit led to second-year man Dave Duerson filling his spot. By the time Bell returned in 1986, it was far too late. He never regained that old form again.
Plank remains a folk hero in Bears lore to this day. One of the most ferocious hitters in franchise history. Someone who embodied what old school Chicago football was about. He had 15 interceptions in his career and was the inspiration for then-defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan to invent the “46” defense.
Gayle experienced two phases in his NFL career. During his early years in Chicago, he was a backup safety and a core special teams player. Then in 1989 he finally became a starter and went to the Pro Bowl in 1991. He had one of the signature moments in team history when he returned a whiffed New York Giants punt for a TD in the 1985 divisional playoff.
06. Penn State
Amos was one of the bigger steals in recent Bears draft memory. A 5th rounder in 2015, he became the starting strong safety as a rookie and would hold that job for the next four seasons. He was a reliable player during that time, known for his good run defense and strong hits. Sadly he departed as a free agent to sign in Green Bay.
Fullbacks don’t get any love these days, but they did back in the 1980s. Suhey was arguably the most beloved fullback in Bears history. The best friend and lead blocker for Payton during the final seven seasons of his career. During that time Suhey wasn’t just pushing guys out of the way. He had over 5,000 yards from scrimmage and 25 touchdowns himself.
Engram could be called one of the more underrated wide receivers the Bears have produced. A lot of people don’t remember him. Yet he had two years in 1998 and ’99 where he 987 and 947 yards receiving respectively. Perhaps he’d be remembered better if he hadn’t left for Seattle after just four seasons.
Hartenstine may not have been the flashy sports car that grabbed the attention. He was more like the sturdy pickup truck that ran well forever. Just a consistently good and productive defensive end for the Bears. He played 184 games in Chicago and collected 24 sacks, though it was definitely more since half his career was played prior to that stat becoming official.
Johnson comes across as a disappointment. Not because he was bad but because he never realized his full potential. For a brief two-year window in 2005 and 2006, he was an excellent nose tackle for the Bears with 8.5 sacks and a key part of their run defense. Sadly he couldn’t keep himself out of trouble off the field.
Jackson had four okay years with the Bears and one brilliant one in the late 1980s. After posting four interceptions his first two seasons, he had eight in 1988. He regressed after that though, appearing to lose speed by 1990. So much that after he left Chicago, the Dolphins converted him to linebacker.
It’s still difficult to understand why the Bears let Parrish walk in 2002. He’d just produced his second-straight year with three interceptions and was a key part of their #1 defense in 2001. A good all-around player who produced 20 interceptions in the three years following his exit from Chicago.
Kreutz was a revelation in 1998. A 3rd round pick out of Washington, teams weren’t sure what he’d be at the pro level. It turns out? Dominant. The man became the unquestioned enforcer for the Bears over the next decade, reaching six Pro Bowls and helping guide the team to four division championships including a Super Bowl appearance.
Gentry is one of those utility players who never
Fontenot never emerged as a huge factor on defense but the 4th round pick proved himself a quality rotation backup at both defensive tackle and end. He had 12 sacks and 90 tackles in this role.
Is it possible for one player to carry his school this high into the rankings? When that man is Mike Singletary, it is. “Samurai” is one of the greatest middle linebackers in history. A 10-time Pro Bowler and two-time Defensive Player of the Year who captained the greatest defense in NFL history. A Hall of Famer and undeniable legend.
03. Notre Dame
Remember Henry Melton and how it looked like he was a budding star for a brief period in 2011 and 2012?
Gandy was the starting left tackle for two years in the early 2000s. While he wasn’t a major standout, he did help their running game continue to produce. His problem wasn’t talent. It was health. Injuries hampered him constantly but his soldier through it for a time.
Flanigan was another of those really good players who got lost in the quagmire of the 1990s. A rare bright spot on defenses that were below average. In seven seasons for the Bears, he produced 40.5 sacks. How he never made the Pro Bowl remains a forgotten crime.
Thayer became a fixture at right guard for the best offensive line in Bears history. One that produced the #1 rushing attack four-straight years in the 1980s and paved the way to a Super Bowl title. He started 120 games total in his career before being forced to retire at age 33.
Duerson really came out of nowhere in 1985 but it didn’t take him long to establish himself as one of the best strong safeties in the league. A four-time Pro Bowler, he had 18 interceptions and 16 sacks during his Bears career. A forever-immortalized member of the ’85 Bears defense.
Before getting into this list, how about a fun fact? USC is #2 in the rankings and the Bears haven’t selected a player from that school since 1999. Let that sink in.
Gunn wasn’t a standout player in his career. He only started one season on defense but he was a reliable backup and also a nice presence on special teams during a dark period in the 1970s.
Evans was another in a long line of underwhelming quarterbacks in Bears history. He was just 12-20 as a starter with 31 touchdowns to 53 interceptions. However, he did contribute to the greatest rout in the history of the Bears/Packers rivalry. A 61-7 thrashing in 1981 where he threw three touchdowns.
Van Horne anchored the right tackle spot for the Bears across the entirety of the 1980s. He started 169 games total and was a big contributor to their dominant rushing attacks of that era. Another of those really good players who gets overlooked for being on a great team.
Conway was one of the rare 1st round wide receivers in Bears history who actually worked out. He was a big-time threat in the mid-1990s, going over 1,000 yards in two consecutive seasons. Sadly QB and injury problems never let him explore his full potential.
Carrier should’ve been a legend in Chicago. Things started that way when he had 10 interceptions as a rookie in 1990s. He eventually made three Pro Bowls with the Bears but declining talent in front of him and changes to the scheme eventually led to him struggling. Had things been diferent, he might be the best safety in team history.
- Major Wright
- Ian Scott
- Rex Grossman
- Neal Anderson
- Trace Armstrong
- Wilber Marshall
Florida has been the true honey hole for the Bears throughout the Super Bowl era. Every decade it seems like they score at least one highly productive player from that program.
Wright was a decent starter for three years with nine interceptions and over 220 tackles from 2011 to 2013. He was just never anything special. An okay player who served a role on a veteran defense.
Most will look at Bostic as another Phil Emery bust, which is fair. Still, he had 140 tackles, two sacks and an interception in two seasons for the team. One could argue his development was ruined by the Mel Tucker era.
Scott was the primary nose tackle in 2005 when the Bears had the #1 defense. He was a tough, rugged player who gave maximum effort. His talent was never high but he made the most of it while he could.
Grossman gets plenty of heat from Bears fans for never being good enough as a quarterback. While that is mostly true, he did have one productive year in 2006. A year in which there were three games he threw three or more touchdowns and had a 100+ passer rating seven times. Like it or not, he helped them get to the Super Bowl that year.
Brown came along right when the Bears needed him. An injection to their pass rush that would help elevate the defense to major heights in the mid-2000s. He would play eight seasons in Chicago, stacking up 43.5 sacks, 17 forced fumbles, and five interceptions.
Nobody envied Anderson in 1988. That was the year he became the starting running back, having to replace the retired Walter Payton. Impossibly big shoes to fill. All things considered, the kid did a hell of a job. He ran for over 6,000 yards and 51 touchdowns in his career, reaching four Pro Bowls despite having to retire before age 30.
One thing that becomes clear about players from Florida the Bears drafted? They were really good for a few years and then suddenly left the team. It was true of Anderson due to injury. For Armstrong? He was traded. A move the team would later regret. He had 42 sacks in six years for Chicago. After leaving, he played another nine years and had 63 more sacks.
The greatest Gator in Bears history. Marshall was a wrecking ball at outside linebacker during his run in the mid-1980s. In just four years he had 295 tackles, 16.5 sacks, nine interceptions, and eight forced fumbles. He was a two-time Pro Bowler as well. Yet the Bears didn’t want to pay him a new contract in 1988. So he left to sign with Washington. They never did successfully replace him.