The Bears bolstered their special teams unit in the sixth round of the draft Saturday by selecting Miami punter Pat O'Donnell with the 191st overall pick.
O'Donnell set a school-record at Miami last season with a 47.1-yard gross average. He spent the previous four years at Cincinnati, redshirting after suffering an injury as a true freshman in 2009.
O'Donnell was the first punter selected in the 2013 draft.
"It's a humbling feeling being the first one taken off the board, especially to be a part of the Bears organization and their rich history they have there," O'Donnell said. "It's definitely an exciting time for me and I'm ready to be a Bear."
O'Donnell possesses rare size and strength for a punter. Standing 6-4 and weighing 220 pounds, he did 23 reps of 225 pounds at the NFL Combine—more than six tight ends, 19 running backs, 21 defensive linemen and all 37 wide receivers.
"I definitely think it helps being the strongest you can be at your position and I think just getting your body in shape and being as strong as you can be definitely helps you excel on the football field, so that's exactly why I do it," O'Donnell said.
The Bears had O'Donnell ranked as the top punter in the draft.
"When you first start scouting all you're told is look for the big leg, look for the tall guys, look for the guys where the ball really comes off the foot, and that's what Patrick's all about," said general manager Phil Emery. "This is a strapping athlete with a big leg who has not only kicked for yardage but he's kicked for average and he's kicked directionally, which is very important in the pro game."
O'Donnell played soccer while growing up in Florida and lined up as a tight end and linebacker in addition to punting at Palm Beach Central High School.
"I would say I'm definitely a little prideful of my athletic ability," O'Donnell said. "I don't think being a specialist should make you any different than any other guy on the field, so it's definitely something you have to get some respect and just show the guys you're one of the guys and just work out with them. You're not just a special teams guy."
After graduating with a degree in organizational leadership from Cincinnati, O'Donnell took advantage of his final year of NCAA eligibility by transferring to Miami. The primary reason he made the move, however, was to be close to his father, Terrence, who was suffering from cancer.
"It was a no brainer for me to come down and support him while he was battling through that," O'Donnell said. "I had a good opportunity at Miami; they just graduated a punter, so I could come down and fulfill my last year of eligibility and I competed down there for the starting job."
O'Donnell revealed that his father's cancer is in remission and the two were able to share a once-in-a-lifetime memory while watching the draft together.
"It was definitely a big moment," O'Donnell said. "When they called my name on TV he started crying and gave me a hug, so it was definitely a memorable moment to share that with him."