Boise State coach Chris Petersen has known all along what NFL scouts realized this past season and many draft prognosticators didn't figure out until after the Bears chose defensive end Shea McClellin 19th overall.
"Shea McClellin is a trained assassin on the football field," Petersen told the Idaho Statesman. "That guy has been such an unbelievable player for a long time for us and completely and totally underrated, I think, in the public eye. I don't think so much in our opponents' eyes and certainly not in our coaches' eyes. I just think all that's coming to light right now."
From a town of 1,000 and a high school graduating class of 37, all the way to the Chicago Bears.
That's the path McClellin has journeyed, his life grounded by growing up on his grandparents' farm in Marsing, Idaho, and nurtured as a well-kept secret at Boise State. He was raised on that 20-acre farm on Chicken Dinner Road in Marsing after his grandparents adopted him as a toddler.
"My mother didn't have enough money, and my dad didn't really want a part of me, I guess you could say," McClellin told the San Diego Union-Tribune last week. "But my mother was there for me. She tried as much as she could to see me, be there for me.
"(My grandparents) stepped up and did what they needed to do. More than anything, they taught me how to be humble, and that's something I'll (have) with me for the rest of my life."
McClellin has been under the radar for a long time, but that's understandable when a player comes from a tiny high school and then plays in the Mountain West Conference. He didn't coast to the big time. Often he toiled in relative obscurity, overshadowed by a prolific offense.
"I think it's very tough just because I came from a small school, and I wasn't rated very high," McClellin said after being selected by the Bears. "Boise State really liked me. They thought I could do big things (and) it played a big role in my life. Coach 'Pete,' helped me out so much, not just for football but in life, teaching me to be a man. That's why, as a team, we're great. Props to coach Pete and the rest of the coaches there because they definitely get us right, not only as players but as young men as well."
No one disputes the speed, character or work ethic that helped McClellin pile up 16.5 sacks the past two seasons. The level of competition he faced and his lack of size draw some scrutiny, but at 6-3 1/2 and 260 pounds, he ran a 4.63-second 40 at the Combine. The only defensive end who ran faster was West Virginia's 245-pound Bruce Irvin, who went 15th overall to the Seahawks. Only three linebackers ran faster.
"To all the doubters, I'm going to have to go out there and prove myself, and I'm used to that," McClellin said. "I came from Boise State. We had to prove ourselves every week, so I'm used to that, and that's what I'm out to do every day."
It'll be different in Chicago, a town that, before Friday, McClellin had only experienced while on a layover en route to somewhere else. In his home town there's already a billboard dedicated to his Boise State exploits, and he's known to everyone by just his first name, as much due to the size of the town as his fame.
"There always some little adjustments," McClellin said. "Life off the field, people are going to treat you differently. On the field, just the speed of it (is different). For myself, I don't think that's an issue. I think for everyone it takes a little bit of time. Other than that, I think the hardest thing will probably be just the mental aspect of it. You've got to get your mind right for sure and just be able to handle everything."
McClellin doesn't have to do everything for the Bears, just give them a better pass rush than they had last season, when they were 29th, with just 33 sacks, 16 less than their opponents.
"I can't wait to play alongside (Julius) Peppers, (Brian) Urlacher, (Lance) Briggs, the whole defense," he said. "It's going to be awesome."
--Bears second-rounder Alshon Jeffery on Wednesday morning became the first 2012 draft pick to agree to terms.
Bears contract negotiator Cliff Stein has earned a reputation for getting his team's draft picks signed more quickly than anyone else, and he's off to another fast start this year. Jeffery, the 6-3, 216-pound wide receiver from South Carolina, is the earliest second-round pick to sign since Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Williams on April 28, 1993.
Terms of Jeffery's deal were not immediately disclosed, but it will be very similar to the $4.448 million, four-year deal that the Broncos did with safety Rahim Moore, the 45th overall pick last season. That contract included a $1.73 million signing bonus.
In just three seasons at South Carolina, Jeffery caught 183 passes for 3,042 yards and 23 touchdowns in 40 games. In 2010 he had 88 receptions for 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns. His 3,042 career receiving yards are a school record and the second most in SEC history.
The Bears relinquished their fifth-round pick to trade up five spots with the Rams in order to get Jeffery. He was the highest-rated player remaining on the Bears' board, according to general manager Phil Emery, and one of the top three receivers in the entire draft in their evaluations.
"We feel that Alshon has the best hands in the draft," Emery said. "We feel that he is the best at adjusting to the ball. We feel he is the best sideline and end-zone catcher in the draft. He's dynamic with the ball in his hands. He's a big man. He's strong. He's tough. He doesn't go down without a fight."
The only knock on Jeffery leading up to the draft was a supposed lack of speed. Most of the 40-yard-dash times listed for him were in the 4.6-second range. But Emery said he timed Jeffery at 4.47 and 4.42 in the 40 at his pro day workout in March.
--Temple tight end Evan Rodriguez, the Bears' fourth-round pick, has had some problems off the field - felony assault reduced to misdemeanor disturbance and trespassing, disorderly conduct - but General manager Phil Emery believes that is in his past. Emery said Rodriguez has benefited from hard coaching and will get more of the same with the Bears.
"Our area scout, Rex Hogan, has extensive contacts at Temple," Emery said. "He has had two taskmasters as head coaches, (Steve) Addazio this past year and (Al) Golden. We spent time with them. They both sign off on this guy's character. He's a very tough, physical football player that we are very excited to have."
Emery says Rodriguez has matured.
"Some players you have to put your thumb on a little bit harder," Emery said. "I think Evan responds to really good, hard, old-fashioned coaching, and he's had that, especially with coach Addazio. He is an old East Coaster who gets after your butt. He's responded very favorably."
Rodriguez says he won't disappoint the Bears for having faith in him.
"As my Dad says, 'We all make mistakes,'" Rodriguez said. "It's growing pains. You learn from your mistakes and don't let them happen again and mature, which I have done. They believed in me, and I'm happy they gave me this opportunity. I'm not going to let them down."
--General manager Phil Emery said players at other positions in the draft offered the Bears a better chance to get better quicker than an offensive lineman, which most see as a glaring team need.
In the second round, offensive tackles were taken with three of the four picks before the Bears selected wide receiver Alshon Jeffery 45th overall -- Cordy Glenn to the Bills (41st), Jonathan Martin to the Dolphins (42nd) and Jeff Allen to the Chiefs (44th). After Jeffery, the next offensive lineman taken was Wisconsin center Peter Konz (55th to the Falcons), followed by Ohio State tackle Mike Adams (56th to the Steelers).
"With Alshon, that was a shining light up there," Emery said. "He was the highest rated player on our board and the highest player available to make plays that determine winning games. So that's why we went after him. When you do that, some positions are going to go by the wayside."
--The Bears didn't use any of their six draft picks to upgrade an offensive line that has allowed 105 sacks over the past two seasons.
But coach Lovie Smith says it's almost as if some new talent has been added to the unit that was depleted by injuries in the 2011 season.
"I know a lot of you have asked about the offensive line and what we are going to do with it," Smith said. "We like our offensive line that we have with Chris Williams getting back out on the football field and Gabe Carimi. We feel like we're adding two more offensive linemen."
Carimi won the starting right tackle job last season as a rookie but suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game. Williams started the first nine games at left guard but missed the final seven with a dislocated wrist.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's not a linebacker, start with that. He won't be a linebacker. He'll have his hand down in a three-point stance from Day One. (He'll be) in the defensive line room, and we can't wait to get started with him. We think he can be an excellent pass rusher in the league." -- Bears coach Lovie Smith, clearing up any misconceptions about where first-round pick Shea McClellin will play
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