Bears See Nick Kwiatkoski As A 'Throwback' Linebacker With Impact Potential
By Chris Emma--
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) -- On many occasions last season, Bears coach John Fox would walk into the general manager's office and outline what he hoped to find for his football team.
Then struggling through his first season in Chicago, Fox would tell Ryan Pace that he wanted throwback players for the Bears. That's what the Bears believe they have in inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, their fourth-round pick in this year's draft.
"He definitely fits that mold," Pace said of Kwiatkoski. "What I like most about him, his number one trait when you're looking for a linebacker is instincts, because you can't coach that, you know? He just reacts so quick and he attacks downhill, so he's making tackles behind the line of scrimmage and I think indicts transfer to whatever level you're playing at. That's what I like about him."
Pace was thrilled to land Kwiatkoski. Like with Leonard Floyd in the first round, the Bears moved up to land him.
Before the ink had dried on the contracts of Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, the Bears brought in the 23-year-old Kwiatkoski, believing he could make a difference immediately on special teams and down the line in a bigger role. While Trevathan and Freeman project to be the Bears' future at inside linebacker, Kwiatkoski could be next.
"They have the experience," Kwiatkoski said of his veteran teammates. "That's nothing but a good thing for me, being behind guys who have seen different things and know how things work. It's good for me."
The Bears' moving up to add a player into a crowded depth chart was perplexing at first -- especially given some immediate needs they could've filled -- but Kwiatkoski is believed to have impact potential for Chicago.
Admittedly, Kwiatkoski was surprised to be drafted by the Bears, namely because he hadn't spoken to them much during the pre-draft process. Joining a team that has two established veterans in starting spots wasn't frustrating for Kwiatkoski, who sees it simply as a benefit, feeling the stability in front of him.
While Trevathan and Freeman are constantly chirping in practice -- looking for that mental edge over the opposition, even in pad-less practices -- Kwiatkoski is more quiet and reserved. Still, he's fitting in well with the two new teammates.
"It adds to the comfort," Kwiatkoski said of Trevathan and Freeman. "They're really helpful, and they know what's going on. They've played years and years in this league. They definitely have useful things to help me, useful words of advice that I can take now and throughout my career."
Kwiatkoski was the heart of West Virginia's defense in college. A Pennsylvania native, he recorded 205 tackles over 48 games during his career with the Mountaineers.
His consistency stood out to the Bears, who see an instinctive, athletic linebacker who can be a key part of their defense down the road and their special teams right away.
"We said time and again last year 'finding playmakers' and that's all part of it," Fox said. "The instincts, the speed of the game, how they're wired is important. That's something we saw in Nick."
Waiting was the hardest part for Kwiatkoski as name by name went through the draft. Finally, his was called when the Bears moved up to take him.
Now, Kwiatkoski will likely be left waiting some more -- this time, for his chance to become a starter with the Bears. Kwiatkoski is content with whatever role comes early on during his career in Chicago, but he will be working for more.
"Control what I can control," Kwiatkoski said. "My job is to get better each day. Whatever happens happens."
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago's sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.
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