Serving as head coach of the American team at the Senior Bowl gave Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy a unique opportunity to work with some of the top prospects in the draft.
Three months later, it was no coincidence that the Bears spent three of their first four picks on players who were on Getsy's squad: Tennessee tackle Darnell Wright in the first round and Miami cornerback Tyrique Stevenson and South Carolina defensive tackle Zacch Pickens in the second.
"It was a cool opportunity to get to know those guys on a different level," Getsy said Saturday during rookie minicamp at Halas Hall. "Our scouting side of it does a great job and they have a whole year's worth or a whole career's worth to evaluate a guy. But to be able to go there and put a stamp on the guys was definitely worth it."
Getsy was immediately impressed with Wright, a unanimous first-team all-SEC selection last year after starting all 13 games at right tackle for the Volunteers.
"The first offensive line meeting that we had, I went into it and I started talking about what it's like to be a rookie in an offensive line room and how that's probably the biggest obstacle in any room, in any building," Getsy said. "You have more duties than anything, and just the way that he handled that conversation and how he has respect for the position and the guys that he's trying to emulate, it was really cool to see that.
"So we got off to a great start, and then on the practice field part of it, I mean the guy just doesn't blink. It's natural to him. You can tell this guy is made of the right stuff."
Wright appeared in 47 games with 42 starts over four seasons at Tennessee, opening 27 contests at right tackle, two at right guard and 13 at left tackle. The versatile 6-5, 333-pounder did not allow a sack in his final 19 games with the Volunteers.
"It's unique for someone that big to be able to bend and be that athletic and as explosive as he is," Getsy said. "It's hard to come around guys that are that big, that long. The length is unbelievable, and the power is unbelievable. And to have that athleticism to go with it, too, was all really cool."
Athleticism is a trait the Bears seek in all their offensive linemen.
"Having athletic offensive linemen is really valuable to what we want to do and what we want to accomplish," Getsy said. "As many of those types of guys that we can get is going to make us better for sure and getting to do what we want to do."
Expectations are high for the two defensive players drafted by the Bears who played on Getsy's Senior Bowl team. The 6-foot, 198-pound Stevenson is a big, physical cornerback who possesses instincts and quickness. ESPN's Louis Riddick described the Miami product as "super, super, super aggressive" and as someone who "will absolutely knock you out."
The 6-4, 291-pound Pickens appeared in 47 games with 32 starts in four seasons at South Carolina, generating 131 tackles, 11.5 tackles-for-loss and 7.5 sacks. Last year, he was named the team's MVP, most outstanding senior and defensive MVP after producing 42 tackles, 4.0 tackles-for-loss and 2.5 sacks.
Getsy wasn't the only Bears assistant to coach in the Senior Bowl. He was assisted by linebackers coach Dave Borgonzi and assistant tight ends coach Tim Zetts, while Bears assistant special teams coach Carlos Polk served as the National team's special teams coordinator.
One of the players on Polk's squad was Roschon Johnson, a talented running back and top special-teams contributor at Texas who was drafted by the Bears in the fourth round.
The Bears are hoping that the stamp of approval Wright, Stevenson, Pickens and Johnson all earned from their coaches at the Senior Bowl will lead to long, successful NFL careers in Chicago.