Working toward his dream of playing in the NFL, Terrence Toliver has put a few miles on his car. A two-year starter at LSU, he showed flashes of serious playmaking potential, which included a three-touchdown performance in the 2010 Cotton Bowl, his final collegiate game.
He was considered by some experts as a mid-round prospect but his lack of overall collegiate production, as well as off-field issues and a shoulder injury that limited him at the combine, left him undrafted in 2011. He spent time on the practice squads of the Texans and Lions that year, before playing briefly with the Omaha Nighthawks of the now-defunct United Football League.
For a player with great size (6-5, 212) and athletic ability, one who dominated for stretches at LSU, it's been a humbling experience to bounce across the football landscape. If nothing else, the last two years have given Toliver clearer vision as to his path onto the Chicago Bears' 53-man roster.
"Special teams. You've got to make your mark on special teams," Toliver told Bear Report. "You're not the guy anymore. Me coming from LSU, I was a guy that didn't have to play special teams. You've got to get on special teams and make your mark there."
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Toliver believes his length and speed can make him very valuable for Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis.
"I think I can play gunner, vice, I can rush off the edge, anywhere," he said.
Yet Toliver has also shown well as a receiver during minicamps and OTAs. He has solid hands, runs decent routes and has made some great catches in traffic down the seams. On underneath patterns, he is adept at shielding the defender with his big frame and catching the ball away from his body.
"I think I can contribute [on offense]," he said. "I'm doing well out here."
Toliver has been working with the second team this offseason and has easily been the most impressive wideout in that group, something he attributes to Chicago's coaching staff.
"I like the coaching staff. It's better here," said Toliver. "They are very intuitive. They talk to you and show you what you need to do, discipline, all of those things. If you need help, they'll help you. I like that."
The Bears are fairly thin at receiver beyond the top four, meaning two to three spots are up for grabs. If the season were to start today, there's a great chance Toliver would be on the final roster. For now though, he said it's all about hard work and learning from the veterans, as well as receivers coach Mike Groh.
"He's a pretty good coach. I'm learning well from him," he said. "B-Marsh (Brandon Marshall) is out here teaching, and Earl [Bennett]. I'm just learning from the veterans right now."
Coming off the field on Tuesday following OTA practice, Toliver expressed slight surprise at my request to speak with him.
"This is my first interview in a long time," he said.
If he carries his strong play into training camp, it will likely be the first of many interviews for Toliver this season.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.