Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery has always been one to go against the grain, and he did so again when he drafted Miami punter Pat O'Donnell in the sixth round.
He was named to the All-ACC First-Team in 2013 along with being named the Hurricanes' special teams MVP. He played in all 13 games and finished 2013 with a punt of 50-plus yards in eight consecutive games.
CBSSports.com raved about his athleticism, writing:
Built like a tight end with good bulk packed on his frame. Terrific athlete as a former soccer star with gliding speed to cover a large area with the willingness to finish tackles on special teams coverage. Devoted to his craft and prepares like a pro. Long, swift leg motions to generate power from his movements to boom the ball off his foot. Handled kickoff duties at Cincinnati and Miami. Was an All-Conference player each of the last three seasons. Good experience kicking in all types of weather.
After punting for three years at Cincinnati, he transferred to Miami as a fifth-year senior prior to the 2013 season.
During his three seasons at Cincinnati, O'Donnell punted 181 times for 7,670 yards. During his one season in Miami, he punted 53 times for 2,498 yards. During his four collegiate seasons, O'Donnell's career average was a terrific 43.45 yards per punt.
He marveled at the combine with his speed and strength. He ran a 4.64 40-yard dash and bench-pressed 225 pounds 23 times, more than No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney.
O'Donnell comes into a good situation in Chicago with the punter position currently being a wide-open competition.
The Bears released punter Adam Podlesh at the end of the season after his net average declined from the 2011 season to the 2013 season, going from 40.4 to 37.9 yards per punt.
The team currently has Drew Butler and Tress Way as the two punters on its roster. Way spent training camp with the team last season, and Butler spent the 2012 season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
O'Donnell certainly has a good leg and the ability to get the ball down the field, but he also uses his athleticism and speed to be a contributor downfield after the kick.
"It’s exactly why I’m there – being another defensive player down the field to make a tackle – so if need be, I’ll jump in there and make a tackle," O'Donnell said to the media in a teleconference Saturday afternoon.
"I don’t think being a specialist should make you any different than any other guys on the team," he continued. "(My athleticism) helps me get some respect, be one of the guys, work out with them, just another special-teams guy."
While the Bears could have gone a variety of different ways with their second pick in the sixth round, O'Donnell fills a need at the punter position for the Bears and should have no problem winning the job from Way and Butler.
Matt Eurich is an NFL/Chicago Bears Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
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