Following the 2008 season, the Chicago Bears elected to part ways with several key players, including receivers Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd and long time free safety and fan favorite Mike Brown.
It was for that reason that many had the Bears pegged to select either a receiver or a free safety with their first pick going into the 2009 NFL Draft.
The Bears, of course, ignored that logic and selected a defensive lineman with their first selection.
In fact, the Bears waited all the way until the middle of the sixth round, pick No 190, before even selecting a safety. And a prototypical strong safety at that, in Oregon State's Al Afalava.
Afalava is originally from beautiful Laie, Hawaii and played high school football at powerhouse Kahuku on the north shore of Oahu. He led the Kahuku Red Raiders to a state championship his junior year and led them to the semifinals his senior year.
At Oregon St, Afalava took over at strong safety as a true freshman and was immediately pegged as a hard hitter (for proof, check out this highlight). He finished his career at OSU with 170 tackles, three interceptions, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and two touchdowns (one interception return and one fumble return).
He posted a 4.47 40 time in personal workout, as he was not invited to the NFL Combine, and impressed the Chicago Bears enough to risk a sixth round pick on him.
And that gamble looks to be paying off. Thought to be a practice squad player for his rookie year, Afalava impressed the Bears coaching staff so much during training camp and the first two preseason games that he made the regular season roster.
He recorded his first career sack, of Packers QB Aaron Rodgers in week one, and has not really looked back since.
He was supposed to take over the backup strong safety spot, however he was thrust into the starting line up when Kevin Payne was benched before their 17-14 upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers in week two.
So far this season, he has recorded nine tackles, one sack and three pass deflections, including a near one handed interception of Seneca Wallace this past week.
Parting ways with Mike Brown was difficult for some fans, myself included, but Afalava has made me appreciate the fact that GM Jerry Angelo and the rest of the Bears brain trust sometimes know what they are doing.
Here is to hoping that Afalava can bring a little bit of paradise to Chicago.
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