LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Bears entered the import business Friday, signing Canadian Football League wide receiver Andy Fantuz to a reserve/future contract.
The 6-4, 220-pounder, who spent the last five seasons with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, caught a career-high 87 passes for a league-leading 1,380 yards and six touchdowns in 2010.
CFL wide receiver Andy Fantuz signs a reserve/future contact with the Bears Friday at Halas Hall.
“I’m particularly excited about this organization because of all the people I’ve met and all the history behind it and the fan base. It’s something I’m really looking forward to.”
Fantuz grew up in Chatham, Ontario, and excelled at the University of Western Ontario, where he won the Hec Crighton Trophy, which is awarded annually to the most outstanding Canadian football player in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS).
Permitted to gauge NFL interest through mid-February because he’s entering the option year of his contract, Fantuz worked out with the Bears, Bengals, Bills, Patriots, Steelers and Patriots.
The 27-year-old knows that he’ll face a major adjustment in the NFL, and not just because the level of competition is much higher. The game is different in the CFL, which features three downs instead of four, 12 players on the field rather than 11, and a larger field.
“It’ll be a big difference and a big change for me,” said Fantuz, who had a cereal named after him in Saskatchewan. “It’s going to be a faster game. It’s going to be different. But being a football player, I’m excited for that challenge and I think I’ll relish it. I’ll be training for it and once training camp comes along, I’ll be ready to go.”
The Bears have had great success developing another former Canadian college product in defensive end Israel Idonije, a seven-year veteran who starred at the University of Manitoba. Fantuz has followed Idonije’s career ever since the two met at an awards banquet when both were in college.
“I remember him being a huge guy and a really nice guy,” Fantuz said. “He really has been an inspiration to not only me but a lot of CIS players who dream of making it to the NFL.”
The Bears have other Canadian ties. General manager Jerry Angelo served as linebackers coach with the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders in 1981; director of player personnel Tim Ruskell worked as a scout with the Roughriders from 1983-85; and Fantuz’s new position coach, Darryl Drake, played for the CFL’s Ottawa Rough Riders in 1981.
Fantuz is the 10th player to sign a reserve/future contract with the Bears in recent weeks. The others are guard Johan Asiata, cornerback K.J. Gerard, tackle Levi Horn, linebackers Chris Johnson and Patrick Trahan, fullback Eddie Williams, quarterback Matt Gutierrez, receiver Onrea Jones and defensive tackle Tank Tyler.