Bears Eye Specialist

As Jerry Azumah walks away from the game, the Bears need to find a replacement at cornerback and kick returner. There is one prospect from the west coast who could possibly fill both roles.

Cornerback/kick returner T.J. Rushing has helped the Cardinal with a number of memorable performances on The Farm, but the senior last week at Stanford's Pro Day put forth a showing that helped himself. An afterthought for many analysts and scouts for the upcoming NFL Draft, Rushing performed in front of representatives from most of the league impressively.

Rushing ran the fastest 40 of the day among Stanford's seniors, with a 4.34 despite rainy conditions that made for slick grass and a number of slow times. He also recorded a 40" vertical jump and - most impressive of all - put up 20 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press.

"Everybody had me billed as a guy not strong enough and not fast enough," Rushing said. "Any questions about speed and strength were answered [at Pro Day], even though the surface conditions were not what I wanted and I didn't run as fast as I wanted."

Not invited to the NFL Combines in Indianapolis (Ind.), Rushing had his first real opportunity to test and perform drills in front of an audience of pro scouts last Wednesday. Believe it or not, he had been listed with "4.55" speed in the publications and data that circulates among scouts and general managers. Rushing rewrote that notion at Pro Day and now has scouts talking about his speed.

The other issue for Rushing has been his size, not among the biggest of cornerbacks at 5'9". But he says that he is not far from the size of many at his position in the NFL. Moreover, his leaping ability helps erase further concerns where size could be an issue.

" I think I answered that with my vertical," Rushing said. "Some people were wondering if at my size I would get beat on the deep ball. If I can go up and bat it down, then there is no issue."

Although the Bears have yet to schedule a private workout with Rushing, the team was represented at pro day. Considering the wet conditions, Rushing's 40 struck the scouts like a thunderbolt. The Bears scout was heard to say that he considered the time a 4.19 in dry conditions. An explosive athlete who is often discounted because of his size, Rushing put himself on the 2006 NFL Draft map with his workout.

TFY Draft Preview Scouting Report
Moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore and awarded All-Conference honors the past two seasons as a return specialist. Defensive numbers last year included 48 tackles 2 interceptions and 4 tipped passes. He also averaged 26.7 yards on 22 kick returns, with two scores. Averaged 28.4 yards on 23 kick returns as a junior, bringing one back 99-yards for a score.

Positive: Explosive track sprinter who translates his speed onto the football field. Quick-closing on the play, stays with opponents out from their breaks or easily runs downfield with receivers. Willing run defender who plays with an aggressive style. Breaks games open returning kicks.

Negative: Lacks instincts on defense and does not show a good sense of timing. Under-sized and loses out in battles at cornerback.

Analysis: A terrific athlete yet raw football player, Rushing's game-changing skills on special teams are his ticket to the NFL.

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