In the first of a five-part series, we take a look at the most notable seventh-round draft picks in Bears history.
The Bears’ 1963 NFL championship team featured four of the best seventh-round picks in franchise history in linebacker Joe Fortunato (1952), defensive back J.C. Caroline (1956), center Mike Pyle (1961) and defensive end Ed O’Bradovich (1962).
Fortunato was voted to five Pro Bowls in 12 seasons with the Bears from 1955-66. He was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1950s and selected as one of the top 300 players in NFL history. An outside linebacker, the Mississippi State product recorded 16 interceptions and 22 fumble recoveries during his career.
Caroline played 10 seasons with the Bears from 1956-65. He had 24 career interceptions, tied for eighth in franchise history with Doug Buffone. The Illinois product was voted to the Pro Bowl in his first season with the Bears in 1956 after leading the team with six interceptions. Caroline spent one season in the CFL before joining the Bears.
Pyle, a Chicago area native who attended New Trier High School, played his entire nine-year NFL career with his hometown team from 1961-69. Pyle anchored the Bears offensive line and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1963. After his retirement, he hosted Bears pre- and post-game radio shows as well as “The Mike Ditka Show” when Ditka was head coach.
Known by younger generations as a fiery Bears post-game radio host, O'Bradovich displayed that same temperament on the field for 10 seasons from 1962-71. He made a key play in the 1963 NFL title game against the Giants, intercepting a Y.A. Tittle pass and returning it 10 yards to the New York 14 to set up the winning touchdown. Like Pyle, O'Bradovich was a local product who attended Proviso East High School and the University of Illinois.
Another seventh-round pick who developed into a star was chosen by the Bears in 1965. Receiver Dick Gordon played seven seasons in Chicago from 1965-71 and ranks 11th on the team’s all-time receiving list with 3,550 yards and 13th with 238 receptions. The last Bears player to lead the NFL in receptions with 71 in 1970, Gordon was voted to back-to-back Pro Bowls in 1970-71.
A key member of the current Bears blossomed after being selected in the seventh round of the 2014 draft from Boise State. Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. was voted to his first Pro Bowl last year and has made 61 straight starts, dating back to Week 4 of the 2015 season when he was promoted to the No. 1 offense.
Other notable Bears seventh-round draft picks include:
Jim Fassel, quarterback (1972)
Fassel never played in the NFL, but he worked as an assistant coach with the Giants, Broncos, Raiders and Cardinals before serving as Giants head coach from 1997-2003. Fassel was named NFL coach of the Year in 1997 and led the Giants to the Super Bowl in 2000.
Jim Osborne, defensive tackle (1972)
A stalwart on defense, Osborne spent his entire 13-year NFL career with the Bears from 1972-84, appearing in 186 games with 154 starts.
Jeff Fisher, safety (1981)
The long-time NFL head coach of the Oilers/Titans and Rams played four seasons with the Bears from 1981-84, contributing primarily as a punt and kickoff returner. As a rookie in 1981, Fisher returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 1984, he set team records with eight punt returns in a game and 58 in a season.
Henry Waechter, defensive end (1982)
Waechter appeared in nine games with two starts as a Bears rookie in 1982 before moving on to the Colts in 1983. He returned to the Bears in 1984 and recorded the final points in Super Bowl XX on Jan. 26, 1986 when he sacked Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan late in the game for a safety.
As we count down to the 2019 NFL Draft, senior writer Larry Mayer ranks the top 10 seventh-round draft picks in Bears history.