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Bears OC Shane Waldron sees Odunze as 'A-plus fit for us' | Quick Hits


Offensive coordinator Shane Waldron was well aware of first-round draft pick Rome Odunze long before either of them joined the Bears.

Both spent the last three years in Seattle, Waldron as Seahawks offensive coordinator and Odunze as a star receiver at the University of Washington.

"Absolutely being out there with how good that Washington team was and Rome being a big part of that, you're up seeing those games every week and seeing what a special player he was," Waldron told

Odunze appeared in 40 games with 30 starts the past four seasons for the Huskies, catching 214 passes for 3,272 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Last year Odunze was named AP First-Team All-American and was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award which honors the nation's top receiver after establishing career highs with 92 receptions, 1,640 yards and 13 TDs. His 1,640 yards led all FBS receivers and were the most in Washington history.

"The thing that flashed, just from a fan standpoint, when you're watching games on Saturday at the hotel was just the consistent playmaker that he was," Waldron said. "When [quarterback Michael] Penix was looking for a big play, [Odunze] seemed to be the guy that kept flashing there."

During their pre-draft research, the Bears and Waldron discovered that Odunze was just as impressive as a person as he was an NFL prospect.

"We knew that he's big and fast and a smooth receiver with the ability to make tough catches," Waldron said. "But the cool thing I thought was when you start learning about the person and how dependable and reliable he was, that really sealed the deal as far as the evaluation process.

"And then I thought it was pretty cool post-draft just the amount of texts I received just about the person more than anything else. So when you're building a culture and building it the right way, it was an A-plus fit for us."

Jones expected to benefit from new rules

The NFL dramatically altered its kickoff rules on a one-year trial basis in 2024 to encourage more returns. Asked which Bears player he felt would benefit most, special teams coordinator Richard Hightower didn't hesitate in naming return specialist Velus Jones Jr.

"A guy like that with his type of skill set, with the speed and the power that he has, and he's coming full speed ahead of you, it's like a damn freight train running at you," Hightower said. "And he's going to get an opportunity to touch the ball three or four more times a game."

This season the ball will be kicked off from the 35-yard line as in the past. But 10 players from the kicking team will line up at the opposing 40. Nine players from the receiving team will stand between their own 30-35, with two returners inside their own 20. No one except the kicker and returners can move before the ball is touched by a player or lands on the ground between the goal line and 20, an area that will be known as the "landing zone."

"We all know [Jones] is a very dynamic player with the ball in his hands," Hightower said. "But because of the landing zone, because of the league incentivizing returns, it's only going to have a really good effect for not only our whole return team but for a guy like that to really change the game."

Aussie reflects on long journey to NFL

Another special teams player the Bears are hoping will change the game is rookie punter Tory Taylor, a fourth-round pick from Iowa.

Last season, the Australian native 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.

Taylor grew up playing Australian Rules Football and didn't pick up an American football for the first time until 2019. Speaking to reporters Saturday, he reflected on his journey after signing his rookie contract.

"It's pretty cool," Taylor said. "When that stuff kind of comes up, I really think about five years ago if someone told me that I'd be standing at the podium at an NFL facility I would have told them that they're absolutely crazy. A lot's kind of come about in the last three or four years. I'm really just grateful to be here … It's really just an honor."

Check out the action from the Halas Hall practice fields, where 43 players – including the Bears' 2024 draft class – participated in a pair of rookie minicamp practices.

Playing for hometown team 'surreal' for Amegadjie

Rookie third-round selection Kiran Amegadjie, an offensive tackle from Yale, feels the same way about joining the Bears, though he traveled a much shorter distance than Taylor.

Amegadjie grew up in the Chicago area as an avid Bears fan, attending Hinsdale Central High School.

"It has been surreal," he said. "This is my team growing up. It's been amazing. I'm really excited I can contribute to the history and the culture of my favorite team, my favorite sports team in general."

Amegadjie is enjoying the perks that come with being drafted by his hometown team.

"My mom still lives in Hinsdale; my dad lives in the city, so I kind of split time," he said. "It's nice. I get home-cooked meals, sleep in my bed. I've got my PlayStation here, I got my friends, my dog. So it's nice to be home."

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