Even Bears Draft Day Busts Need a Hug Now and Then

Gene ChamberlainCorrespondent IApril 22, 2010

17 Sep 2000:  A close up of Curtis Enis #44 of the Chicago Bears as he looks on from the sidelines during the game against the New York Giants at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Giants defeated the Bears 14-7.Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Every team has draft day busts.

In fact, only about 50 percent of first-round draft choices even become a viable NFL player.

Anyone can love someone in the successful 50 percent. It’s the 50 percent who flop and still endear themselves to fans who are memorable.

Most of the 50 percent who flop, and those who selected them, are cursed about by fans.

But some of them are recalled fondly in time, sort of like that first car you owned -- you know, the one that always broke down at the worst time, or had so much rust that it became a never-before-seen color.

It’s sort of like my 1967 Ford Galaxy, so rusted out that a hole had been eaten into the side of the trunk in the rear left fender. And when an old rag started falling out, it froze there in the winter and protruded like a white piece of ice until summer, calling attention to the car’s utter ugliness.

The fact that the stick shift on the column would stick and had to be unlocked with the back of a hammer only added to the fun.

The Chicago Bears have had as many draft day busts as anyone, and not just because they’ve been around since it all started. Only some of these flops endeared themselves in a way to make them memorable.

Here are my favorites:

10. John Capel, WR, Florida, 2001

Normally seventh-rounders are exempt from bust status because little is expected of someone chosen in the final round. However, Capel is on the list because of his unforgettable antics.

An Olympic team sprinter, the late Mark Hatley took a calculated risk with this pick because of Capel’s amazing speed. In the seventh round, you had to like that speed.

While Capel was at his rookie minicamp after the draft, it was learned that he had just been arrested in Florida for possession. The officer making the traffic stop noticed a “strong odor of marijuana.” Less than 20 grams of pot was then found in a fast-food bag on the car’s floor.

Neither Capel nor the passenger would own up to the smoldering pot.

Oh, it was probably just in the bag and hadn’t been taken out. It was that new item on the McMenu: The McJoint.

The passenger ratted out Capel, saying Capel told him to stash the joint.

Capel never even got to training camp with the Bears. He was cut in mid-July.

9. John Allred, TE, USC, 1997

The Bears’ top pick of 1997, he was their first pick in that draft because they had traded the first-rounder away for their franchise quarterback and savior, Rick Mirer.

This pick gets beloved status because it only underscores how little former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt and the Michael McCaskey regime knew about pro talent. When they announced the decision, the media crowd at Halas Hall’s auditorium gasped because they’d all read the reviews.

This was a tight end who couldn’t catch a pass but could block. Wannstedt liked him so much because he could block.

The only problem was, he was the third tight end chosen and almost all draft analysts had him rated the eighth-best tight end available or worse.

If the Bears wanted a guy who could block, they should have just taken another tackle and used an unbalanced line.

8. Claude Harriott, DE, Pitt, 2004

People don’t remember Claude much but I do. Chosen in Round 5 by Jerry Angelo to challenge Alex Brown and Michael Haynes before Adewale Ogunleye was acquired, Harriott hadn’t shown anything in training camp. Still, the Bears were using him ahead of Haynes or Brown at times.

I challenged defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, who is currently the Vikings’ D-line coach, about Harriott and essentially said the guy had no talent. Dunbar took offense and belittled me in front of other reporters for suggesting this and then defended his guy.

A week or so later, they cut Harriott. He wound up in the CFL.

The message for NFL assistants: Don’t try to fool the trained eye with hyperbole.

7. Alonzo Mayes, TE, Oklahoma, 1998

He held out almost a month after being drafted in Round 4. Mayes had been mentioned as a possible first-rounder, but dropped because of a positive marijuana test. He claimed it was “second-hand smoke.”

Maybe he should have claimed it was Capel’s.

Anyway, he finally signed and missed three flights from Oklahoma to Lacrosse, Wisc., where the Bears were practicing against Mike Ditka’s Saints. When he finally showed up, he was asked how you can possibly miss three flights in one day.

"Sometimes it just ain’t yo day,” he said.

And sometimes it just ain’t your career. Mayes caught 33 passes in three years, got traded to Miami after Wannstedt had gone there, and then was cut by the Dolphins.

Even Wanny wasn’t fooled the second time and cut him.

6. Stan Thomas, OT, Texas, 1991

Mike Ditka called him a steaming pile of you know what. This was a first-round pick McCaskey ordered up because Jimbo Covert’s back had ended his career and the Bears needed a tackle.

Thomas had one problem. He couldn’t play...at all. Oh, he had another problem. He was rather obnoxious.

In February 1992, he got shot in the head coming out of a bar in California. Right or wrong, there were plenty of Bears fans who cheered that day.  He was fine after the shooting.

5. Cedric Benson, RB, Texas, 2005

You can look at what he’s done for Cincinnati last season and say this isn’t a bust. He was a bust for the Bears.

Benson couldn’t or wouldn’t perform the way they wanted when less-talented Thomas Jones had always produced and Matt Forte produced running behind the same line a year after Benson left.

Benson endeared himself to us media types because he really didn’t care what he said, like when he predicted he’d gain 1,700 yards even though Jones, a veteran leader, was still on the team.

He claimed he was punched by Jones at one time, and in his first training camp of 2006 after holding out a Bears record month in 2005, whined that the defensive players were hitting him too hard. It is, after all, a contact sport.

Then he got his shoulder dislocated by Brian Urlacher and Mike Brown in a non-tackling scrimmage.

The Bears’ P.R. department always put a shadow on his shoulder during practice so they knew what daffy thing Cedric had said that would eventually have to be recanted.

He always had that partier image and it eventually led to his departure. Even the way he talked sounded like someone who just took a couple hits and passed the bong. But you had to love the guy and it was good to see him stick it in the Bears’ ears last fall.

4. David Terrell, WR, Michigan, 2001

Another goof and another first-round holdout. He pretty much flew by the seat of his pants.

Hatley’s last first-round Bears pick, he showed some promise as a rookie. He couldn’t drive a car without getting stopped.

His final straw in this regard was the time he got arrested for reckless driving, failure to yield, improper lane usage, driving with a suspended license, and driving without insurance. Asked about it, he said, that it was not “a major issue, just a ticket.”

If Terrell could catch a pass and run with it and not get stupid unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for taunting, he might have at least played a few more years.

But penalties? That’s not a major issue.

3. John Thierry, DE, Alcorn State, 1994

“C’mon J.T.!” the yells of former Bears defensive coordinator Bob Slowik echoed repeatedly across the Platteville, Wisc., practice fields.

Thierry was the 11th pick of the draft and had a nine-year career, but only five with the Bears. In nine years, he had only 33½ sacks.

During a discussion with reporters at Halas Hall one off-season, Wanny started bragging about J.T. and how he put Simeon Rice to shame with the way he ran a cone drill.

Certainly, if teams could use cones at tackle, J.T. would have beaten out Rice for the Pro Bowl. As it was, it was a sin that the guy could say he even played the same position or in the same league as Rice.

2. Alonzo Spellman, DE, Ohio State, 1992

“Physically, he's a world-beater,” Michigan center Matt Elliott said of Spellman. “Mentally, he's an egg-beater."

Actually it was worse. Spellman was bi-polar, as myself and a handful of reporters found out on a mid-March day following a blizzard as we stood in foot-deep snow on a highway near Barrington where Spellman had holed himself up inside the home of his “publicist.”

Why he needed a publicist was never explained. What he needed was a shirt, shoes and socks.  A day later he was escaping from the hospital without shirt and shoes or socks and running up the side of Route 22 in the slush.

He had the most intimidating looking physique of any Bears player in the 28 years I’ve been going in their locker room.

So the world-beater part was true, as was the egg-beater part ... he was found living in a flop house once, using his football earnings to support a bunch of hangers-on, then got arrested later on a plane for causing trouble.

Too bad. He always seemed like a nice guy and knew how to talk to reporters.

1. Curtis Enis, RB, Penn State, 1998

Another holdout, one of the most storied in Bears history considering the rhetoric on both sides. He aligned himself with a strange religious group and shady agent Greg Feste, then went through more personality changes even than Spellman.

Enis showed up the God-fearing, born-again player who was devout. He had married a stripper and the two had undergone a religious transformation.

After a severe knee injury ended his rookie year, he lost a lot of weight to help his rehab and showed up at training camp acting like a bro from the hood. He came to Platteville with the windows of his SUV open, stereo blaring rap music with foul lyrics, and talked trash to reporters.

He cursed repeatedly and when confronted about the wild behavior for a man who was “born again,” by former Copley News Service columnist Mike Nadel, Enis wondered aloud whether Nadel was a good Christian.

“No,” Nadel said. “I’m Jewish.”

“I’ve got no problem being Jewish. I like money and making things happen too,” Enis said.

Enis wore an orange prison jump suit around camp that year off the field, and on it he enraged Bears equipment manager Tony Medlin to the point of screaming when he cut the sleeves off his jersey and then put an extra No. 4 on it so it read, “444.”

The next year, Enis announced in minicamp that he now was a fullback and tried to blend in but still said strange things. I asked him about Barry Sanders retiring at an early age that year and Enis called Sanders "a little bitch."

Shortly thereafter Enis was completely out of Chicago.

If Hatley had only done his homework.

Joe Paterno called Enis the biggest con man he’d ever seen.


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