Dom DeCicco was invited to Chicago Bears training camp last season after signing as an undrafted free agent. He played strong safety in college yet the Bears wanted him to play linebacker, a position DeCicco had never before played.
We spoke with him last week during veteran minicamp and he admitted that last offseason was a blur.
"Showing up to camp last year without really having any idea of what I was doing playing a new position was just a complete whirlwind," DeCicco said. "I was completely clueless out there."
Yet despite struggling to learn a new position, Bears coaches felt DeCicco had enough athleticism to be valuable on special team and made him a part of the 53-man roster. He stuck with the club throughout the year and finished the campaign second on the team in special teams tackles (17).
LB Dom DeCicco
This offseason, during Chicago's organized team activities (OTAs) and veteran minicamp, DeCicco looks like a new player on defense. Obviously, a full year under his belt, combined with a full offseason of practices, has done him wonders in his development as a linebacker.
"From last year, it's night and day," said DeCicco. "But I still have a ton to learn. I'm still making mistakes out there every day. But Brian [Urlacher] and Nick [Roach] and Lance [Briggs], they're nothing but help and they let me know when I do something wrong. I'm learning every day and getting more and more comfortable each day."
With Urlacher currently sidelined with a knee injury, DeCicco has been seeing considerable reps with the first team at middle linebacker. He said it took some time to become comfortable calling in plays to a huddle full of accomplished veterans.
"I'd be lying if I said it didn't but I've gotten used to it. Last year, when I was walking in there, if Brian wasn't there and coach put me in, calling [plays to] Lance, Julius [Peppers], [Charles] Tillman, at first it is kind of [weird] but you get used to it. But the guys have been nothing but great so it's been easy."
Even though DeCicco is progressing rapidly as a linebacker, he still has a lot of room for improvement. If Urlacher ends up missing time this year, the club will rotate Roach inside and place Geno Hayes on the strong side. So in essence, DeCicco, despite working with the first team, is the club's third option at middle linebacker.
Yet he bulked up this offseason without losing any of the speed that made him an accomplished collegiate safety at the University of Pittsburgh. Physically, he has all the tools to be the team's long-term answer at MLB. If he continues to learn the position, the team might be able to rely on him at linebacker as early as next season.
For a former undrafted free agent, playing for an organization with a long history of All Pro linebackers, that's not too shabby.
"Every day, still up to this point, there's so much more I'm learning but I'm feeling more and more comfortable," DeCicco said.
At the very least, assuming he makes the team, DeCicco will be a valued member of the Bears' special teams in 2012. He currently has a role on all four of special teams coordinator Dave Toub's units.
"I'd like to just go out there and make sure I do everything right," said DeCicco. "I'm not really a big talker, I just want to show that I know what I'm doing and going out there on special teams and not making mistakes."
If he accomplishes that goal, and continues to grow into the linebacker position, he could be a household name in Chicago sooner rather than later.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.