What college football program has had the biggest effect on the Chicago Bears? Maybe "the U," since Devin Hester and Greg Olsen and many other NFL players went to Miami. Or is it Nebraska? The secondary's Josh Bullocks and Zack Bowman are both Cornhuskers. Or is it another traditional football powerhouse like Florida or Ohio State?
None of the above. The school that educated the most future Bears is that football powerhouse of ... Vanderbilt? It's true. Of the 14 Vanderbilt alums who were in training camp for NFL teams, five of them are Bears.
Jay Cutler and Earl Bennett played together for one season at Vandy. While there, Cutler picked up the school's career and single-season records for most total offense. Though he's laughed off his rushing abilities, he didn't learn to rush for the first time at Halas Hall, as he ran for 1,256 yards for the Commodores. Bennett is also prominent in the record book. He scored five touchdowns against Kentucky in 2005, a record game.
The Cutler-Bennett connection helped Bennett become the SEC's all-time receptions leader. When Cutler was traded to the Bears, one of his first calls was to Bennett. The two were eager to restart the chemistry they had created in Nashville. They are protected (sometimes) by another Commodore -- highly paid lineman Chris Williams.
On defense, rookie and Vanderbilt alum D.J. Moore has burst onto the scene, leading the Bears in interceptions. He was a punt and kickoff returner for Vandy, and led the team in interceptions in 2007 and 2008. He's second on the Commodores' list for most interceptions in a career. Not only that, he has excellent taste in shoes and haircuts.
One more Vandy product has an effect on the team, though he hasn't played this season. Hunter Hillenmeyer had to be put on injured reserve after suffering a concussion in the pre-season, but his effect on the linebackers who filled in for him is clear. Pisa Tinoisamoa and Nick Roach both played with Hillenmeyer and learned from him, and they both have had a big role in the Bears' league-leading defense.
We've given Jerry Angelo well-deserved guff for his drafting (in)abilities, but it seems like he's figured out one thing that the rest of the league hasn't: Vanderbilt produces good players.