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 the countdown.
We begin the top half of our countdown this afternoon with one of the best offensive linemen the Bears have had in recent years, as Chris Villarrial checks in at number 15.
Originally just a reserve lineman at Indiana University (Pennsylvania), Villarrial turned himself into a three-time All-American, and set a record for best bench press in the history of the NFL Combine. Despite those accomplishments, Villarrial was a fifth round draft pick of the Bears in 1996, but his career ended up being a huge boost to the team. In every season that he was with the team, Villarrial blocked for a running back that would end up being a 1000 yard rusher, including Anthony Thomas. He left the Bears via free agency before the 2004 season, and ended up blossoming there as well.
During his career, Villarrial was named to two All-Pro teams with the Bears, and was a key contributor to the 2001 division championship team. That squad gave up the fewest sacks in the NFL, and even though they lost in the playoffs to the Philadelphia Eagles, they still went on an impressive run thanks to their gritty style of play.
Nowadays, Villarrial is the head football coach at St. Francis University in Pennsylvania. The school is a Division I FCS school, and Villarrial has been the head coach of the Red Flash since 2009.
It’s really hard to justify putting an offensive lineman so high on our list, but Chris’ accomplishments with the Bears speak for themselves. The string of 1000 yard rushers that he blocked for proves that he was an excellent asset on the line of both the Bears and the Bills, and his status as a fifth round draft pick only shoots him higher on the countdown.