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Bears draft Iowa punter Tory Taylor in fourth round


The Bears on Saturday chose Iowa punter Tory Taylor with the 122nd pick in the fourth round of the NFL Draft.

The Bears selected the 6-4, 223-pound Australia native with a pick they acquired last year from the Eagles in moving down in the first round from No. 9 to 10, where they chose right tackle Darnell Wright.

Last season Taylor won the Ray Guy Award as the nation's best punter and was named First-Team All-American after averaging 48.2 yards on 93 punts, placing 32 inside-the-20 with seven touchbacks.

"Really excited about Tory," said general manager Ryan Poles. "One of the best punters I've ever seen, just in terms of his placement as well as his leg strength to be able to flip the field."

Taylor appeared in 49 games the past four seasons for the Hawkeyes, averaging 46.3 yards on 295 punts, placing 127 inside-the-20 with 32 touchbacks.

He set NCAA single-season punting records last year with 4,479 yards and a 48.2-yard average. He also established career marks with a 46.3-yard average and 43 games averaging at least 40 yards per punt.

"Tory is a weapon for the whole football team," said coach Matt Eberflus. "The punt and pins are huge. This guy is a big talent, so we're excited to have him."

According to Bears area scout Drew Raucina, leg strength is what makes Taylor special.

"We see him as a weapon," Raucina said. "The way he can flip the field. He's going to help our defense. Everything about that he's going to help us come in here immediately and make an impact."

Taylor grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and is 26 years old. He was the first specialist taken in this year's draft and is the NFL's highest drafted punter since Mitch Wishnowsky was chosen by the 49ers at No. 110 in 2019.

"There's not many punters that are drafted high these days," Taylor said during a Zoom call with Chicago reporters. "It's just really an absolute honor to be a Bear. I just can't really believe it to be honest. It's crazy."

Even crazier is that friends were texting Taylor that they wanted the Bears to pick him in the fourth round and he even joked with his girlfriend about the possibility.

"It's funny, my girlfriend is from Chicago," Taylor said. "I was like, 'Imagine the Bears use their pick at 122,' and then at 115 I just said it as a joke to my girlfriend. I was like, 'Only seven picks away.'"

Taylor didn't have much contact with the Bears during the pre-draft process.

"I only spoke to [special teams] coach [Richard] Hightower at the combine, and I felt like we really clicked," Taylor said. "He used to coach Mitch Wisnowski at the 49ers, and I really feel like I'm a similar kind of player."

Taylor attended Haileybury in Hertford, Australia, a boarding and day school for boys and girls ages 11-18. Having played Australian Rules Football, he contacted Prokick Australia, an organization that helps place players at U.S. colleges.

Taylor enrolled at Iowa in 2020 and eventually blossomed into an NFL prospect, thanks in part to the support and guidance he received from Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz and special teams coordinator LeVar Woods.

"When I first came over here, I was like, 'Oh, I'm just going to have fun and see what happens," Taylor said. "After a year or so, my coach said: 'You can really be something pretty special.' It wasn't really anything that I thought about too much. I'd always known that I had a big leg. I'm really just grateful for all the coaches, especially coach Ferentz and also coach Woods for really just letting me be me.

"I've had one pretty crazy journey, but it just really shows if you just put in the hard work, usually good things prevail."

With the 122nd pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, the Bears select Iowa punter Tory Taylor. Take a look at photos of Taylor in action. (Photos via AP)

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