As the NFL Draft approaches, Grizzly Detail is counting down the Top 30 draft picks in Chicago Bears history. In order to qualify for this list, a player must have worn a Bears uniform for at least five seasons (sorry Rosevelt Colvin and Wilber Marshall), and players who were selected in lower rounds of the draft will have an advantage in this countdown.
We continue the countdown with our Number 26 selection, which we used to draft former Bears wide receiver Curtis Conway.
Taken seventh overall in the 1993 NFL Draft by the Bears out of USC, Conway came into Chicago and immediately began to key an offensive turnaround for a team that historically has relied upon its defense for success. In seven seasons with the Bears, Conway racked up 329 receptions, 4,498 career yards, and 31 touchdown catches in 92 games with the team. He ended up finishing his career with stints with the San Diego Chargers, New York Jets, and San Francisco 49’ers, where he retired after the 2004 season.
Overall in his career, Conway had 8,230 yards receiving, 52 touchdowns, and 594 receptions with four teams.
Conway saw his biggest career successes in the 1995 and 1996 seasons with the Bears, with his spark plug in that first campaign being the emergence of Erik Kramer onto the scene. In that first season, Conway snagged 12 touchdown passes in 16 starts, and racked up 1037 yards receiving on the year, making him one of only 10 players in Bears history to pick up over 1,000 yards receiving in a season.
The very next year, Kramer only started four games, but Conway didn’t miss a beat with Dave Krieg under center. He set a career high in receptions with 81 that year, and set a new career high in receiving yards with 1049. He became only the third Bear in team history to have back-to-back 1000 yard seasons (joining Marty Booker and Brandon Marshall), and his athleticism was the marvel of the league as the Bears’ offense surged.
Nowadays, Conway is known mostly for his personal life. He is married to former professional boxer Laila Ali, who is the daughter of legendary fighter Muhammad Ali. He also took a job in the fall of 2013 as an analyst for the Pac-12 Network, a logical move for a guy who finished fourth in receptions (49) and third in receiving yards (764) during the 1992 season with the USC Trojans.
Conway was a tough player to knock down the list for us, but a few things worked against him. Conway did have some good success after a relatively brief stint with the Bears (seven seasons), so it’s hard to define him as just a Bear. His career high in receiving yards came in 2001 with the Chargers, as he racked up 1,125 of them. He also suffered a bit of regression in his final seasons in Chicago, only playing in nine games during a 1999 season in which he had 44 receptions. He also missed nine games in 1997.
Even still, Conway was a jolt of electricity when he arrived on the scene in Chicago, sparking an offense that hadn’t exactly been a pillar of greatness in recent seasons. That alone is enough to get him a spot on the list, even if it seems a little bit low to some.