Bears coach Matt Nagy was impressed with the quickness he saw from cornerback Duke Shelley in the team’s first rookie minicamp practice Friday at Halas Hall.
“He’s quick-twitch,” Nagy said of the sixth-round pick from Kansas State. “He was out here doing some special-teams drills early on and you could just really feel the energy and how quick he is making his moves and then doing some DB drills flipping his hips real quick, turning over and then actually finishing with the catch.”
Shelley believes that his quickness stems from the training he’s done since he first started playing football at a very young age.
“That’s something that coaches always told me growing up; they praised my feet,” Shelley said. “I’ve got to give credit to my dad with that. I was five years old the first time I learned how to backpedal. I was probably the only one on the five-, six-year-old team who knew how to backpedal. Habits that you create from when you’re younger and just growing up, doing those things repetitively become muscle memory. So now when I do it, I don’t even think of it; it just comes natural.”
Projected as a nickel back in the NFL, Shelley joins the Bears after appearing in 38 games with 37 starts in four seasons at Kansas State, where he recorded 165 tackles, eight interceptions—returning two for touchdowns--one sack, seven tackles-for-loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Off and running: Nagy also liked what he saw from David Montgomery, a running back from Iowa State that the Bears selected with their top pick in the third round of the draft.
“I thought he had a good practice,” Nagy said. “These kids, they’re going on all these visits and the Combine and they’re traveling and then the draft. Their bodies wear down a little bit. They get away from lifting, so we want to be really hesitant in how much we do with him.
“I thought he handled himself great. He looks like he’s in great shape. Caught the ball really well. These camps aren’t too big on running, so it’s a lot of receiving and I was really impressed.”
Raw talent: One of the Bears’ most intriguing rookie prospects is seventh-round pick Stephen Denmark, a 6-3, 220-pounder who switched from receiver to cornerback in his final season last year at Valdosta State.
After the Bears chose Denmark with the 238th pick in the draft, general manager Ryan Pace said that he possessed “ridiculous measurables.”
“You see his size, see his speed, you see the way he plays on tape,” Nagy said. “You’re able to take a little bit more of a risk [in the seventh round] with somebody like that who’s a little more raw.
“Him being out here, you see his size, and now he’ll just go ahead and be under the tutelage of coach [Chuck] Pagano and coach [Deshea] Townsend. We’ve got time with him and he’s got traits. He’s a big guy who can do a lot of things.”
Historically speaking: For the second straight year, Nagy invited several former Bears players to speak with the team’s rookies while eating dinner together Thursday night.
The “ambassadors” included Brian Baschnagel, Alex Brown, Matt Forte, Jay Hilgenberg, Ike Hill, Israel Idonije, Patrick Mannelly, James Thornton, Charles Tillman, Nathan Vasher, Bob Wetoska and James “Big Cat” Williams.
“To me, the power behind that is No. 1 knowing how much of a family we are and what that means,” Nagy said. “We always hit on the tradition. No. 2, you get drafted, it doesn’t always mean you’re going to make the team. And if you don’t get drafted, it doesn’t always mean that you’re not going to make the team. So we had examples of players that went undrafted that went on to play in Pro Bowls with our ambassadors and we have some that got drafted that did the same thing.
“I just think it’s great for these young rookies and for all of us to understand the history behind the Bears, the tradition, the family, the city. But then on top of that we kept talking about opportunities, and so we as coaches want to see them play. These guys gave examples of opportunities, and it was a good night.”