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Bears trade up to pick Kwiatkoski

Posted Apr 30, 2016

The Bears continued to wheel and deal Thursday, trading up four spots in the fourth round of the draft to select West Virginia inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski with the 113th pick.

The Bears continued to wheel and deal Thursday, trading up four spots in the fourth round of the draft to select West Virginia inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski with the 113th pick.

In making their fourth trade in this year's draft, the Bears obtained the selection from the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for the 117th pick and a sixth-round choice (No. 206).

“We had a lot of conviction in him,” said general manager Ryan Pace. “He’s a guy we liked; three-year starter, a team captain, very instinctive, tough hard-nosed player, plays downhill, very productive. He’s a guy that we valued obviously to go up and get him and a guy that we’re real excited to have.”

Kwiatkoski was a four-year contributor and three-year starter at West Virginia, where he registered 303 tackles, 28 tackles-for-loss, 5.5 sacks and six interceptions while appearing in 48 games with 37 starts.

Last season the 6-2, 243-pounder was voted first-team All-Big 12 after recording 86 tackles, 10 tackles-for-loss, three sacks and three interceptions while starting all 13 games.

“I feel like [coach] John [Fox] would come into my office throughout the season and say, ‘I want a throwback player,’ and [Kwiatkoski] definitely fits that mold,” Pace said.

“What I like about him, the No. 1 trait when you’re looking for a linebacker is instincts. You can’t coach that. He just reacts so quick and he attacks downhill. He’s making tackles near the line of scrimmage. I think instincts transfer to whatever level you’re playing at.”

Kwiatkoski arrived at West Virginia in 2011 as a 205-pound safety, but he moved to linebacker after redshirting as a freshman when Tony Gibson took over as defensive coordinator.

"As soon as he came in, he pulled me into his office and said, 'You're moving to linebacker,'" Kwiatkoski said Saturday after being drafted by the Bears. "I was open to the idea. I didn't really know much at the time, but after that first year at linebacker, it was a smooth transition."

Kwiatkoski started all 10 games he played as a sophomore in 2013, leading the Mountaineers with 86 tackles. As a junior in 2014, he opened all 13 games and led West Virginia with 103 tackles, 71 solo stops and 11.5 tackles-for-loss.

Kwiatkoski credits his emergence at linebacker to the hours he spent in the film room.

"Probably the hardest thing for me was just kind of reacting so close to the line of scrimmage," he said. "But seeing the films I learned to do things, techniques. It definitely helped me become a better linebacker quicker than just playing a lot."

Kwiatkoski spoke to the Bears at the Senior Bowl and the Combine, but he was slightly surprised they drafted him because he had had more contact with other teams.

The Pennsylvania native is excited about joining a franchise with such a storied history at his position.

"The Bears have a long line of great linebackers," Kwiatkoski said. "That's something that makes me really happy to be a part of. They're a hard-nosed defense.

"I haven't really talked to anyone about where I'm going to be in the defense yet, but I feel like I bring versatility and just linebacker instincts. I've played multiple positions and I'm just happy to work. I play hard-nosed linebacker. I like to hit and be physical, but at the same I'm versatile, so I can cover."

Kwiatkoski said he's eager to learn from veteran inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman and is also looking forward to reuniting with former West Virginia teammate Kevin White, the Bears' first-round pick last year.

"I'm pretty close with Kevin," Kwiatkoski said. "He came into West Virginia as a JUCO player, lived two doors down from me and I've stayed close with him. I lived with his brother, [Mountaineers receiver] Ka'Raun White, at West Virginia this past year."