You never wish injury upon a player.
But Corey Wootton's ACL tear in the 2008 Alamo Bowl may ultimately be a blessing in disguise for both himself and the Chicago Bears.
Wootton, who was the 109th pick in the draft, recently agreed to a four-year contract with the Bears. Considering he would have likely been a first or second round pick a year ago, Chicago might have pulled another mid-round steal.
During Wootton's 2008 campaign with Northwestern, he racked up 10 sacks en route to an All-Big Ten Team selection. With a 6-foot-7, 280-pound body, his speed and power were a nightmare for opposing offenses.
His efforts helped the Wildcats make it to the Alamo Bowl—but that's as far as he would go in 2008.
He worked hard to get back into football shape in time for the 2009 season. At Big Ten Media Days in July, he assured reporters he would be back at full speed by the time Towson came to Evanston.
But it became clear he wasn't even close. He didn't record a single defensive statistic against Towson.
Through the first few games, head coach Pat Fitzgerald had to field questions about his star defender's health. Each time he would say it takes time to recover psychologically from such a serious injury, and he was sure Corey would be back to his normal self soon.
Wootton finished 2009 with 21 tackles and four sacks, compared to 42 tackles and 10 sacks in 2008. His production declined, and as a result he slipped to the fourth round.
The Bears did not just draft him for the local tie. Wootton played an entire season without aggravating his previous injury, so he's not bound to be injury-prone for his entire career.
The physical tools are all there. Even when he was double-teamed during every game in 2008, he still found his way to the quarterback.
He has a similar skill set to Mark Anderson: quick off the snap, savvy in the backfield, and a nose for the quarterback. Depending on how he performs in training camp and the preseason, he could be a feasible backup for Anderson.
A lot depends on Wootton's development. Even in the 2010 Outback Bowl, he did not seem as fast as he was in 2008. There's no room for timidness in the NFL.
He has to give it 100 percent when he puts on a Bears uniform, regardless of injury concerns.
"Potential" is a word often thrown around when discussing draft picks. Wootton is a different story. He has tangible results of his brilliance. The only problem is those monster stats are from 2008.
It's 2010, and Soldier Field is a quick 30-minute drive down the Lake Michigan shore from Ryan Field, where he made Big Ten Offensive Coordinators tremble.
With potential mentors like Julius Peppers and the aforementioned Anderson, Wootton has a great opportunity to flourish with a team that has playoff aspirations. He has a chance to prove to the league and himself that his best days are not behind him.
It's time for Wootton to Bear Down.
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