Looking for Talent in the Trenches

The Chicago Bears are looking at offensive line prospects who can play more than one position. Versatility and ability are the requirements to play upfront in Chicago. After conducting multiple interviews with offensive linemen at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine, one prospect appears to fit the bill. Scout.com confirmed that the Bears have interviewed this Big 12 product.

Oklahoma's Chris Chester, a 6'4, 300-pound offensive lineman from Oklahoma, raised his stock considerably at this year's Combine in Indianapolis. A tight end who converted to center late in his collegiate career, also has experience at guard. He drew interview requests from over half of the NFL teams and should be selected in the upper half of the NFL Draft in April.

Despite breaking his hand and suffering a knee injury last fall, Chester had his most successful season at Oklahoma. For his efforts he was awarded the Bob Kalsus award, honoring bravery, integrity and hard work. Known to be a gritty, hard-nosed football player, there's no question why Chester has become a valuable prospect for some NFL teams.

He raised his stock significantly at the NFL Combine last month in Indianapolis, blowing away the competition at his position with a 4.90 40-yard dash and a 3-cone agility time of 7.31 seconds. No one else at his position completed the 3-cone in less than 7.4 seconds. And only one other center, Boston College's Pat Ross, ran a sub-5.0 dash, posting a 4.97 result. Chester was also tops in the broad jump (8-10), vertical jump (31.5) and had the fourth-best bench press with 27 reps.

Here's what he had to say about his past, present and future during a recent interview with Scout.com.

Question: What was the progression from tight end to offensive lineman like?

Chris Chester: The first three years at Oklahoma I was a tight end. And I was a redshirt my first year, but the two years after that I was doing some of our jumbo formations and our short yardage, where you need extra tight ends for blocking. Going into my fourth year, Coach Kevin Wilson, our offensive line coach, he approached me and asked me if I'd be interest in working at center. He thought with my athleticism and size, being a pretty a good blocker at tight end, that I could be a good center. It's kind of hard to go from a skill position to the offensive line. But in the end, our team had a need at center so I went ahead and did it. I worked all through spring, and after that spring, I came out and did double duty at both tight end and center. I did a little bit of both. This last year, I started the season at guard for the first game. But our coach decided, just because of my athleticism, that I'd be a better fit at center.

Q: How much did you have to bulk up to make the switch from tight end to offensive line?

CC: It was kind of a long process. To get to where I'm at now, it was about a two, two-and-a-half-year process. My fourth year at tight end and center, I was probably at about 265. So by the end, I gained about 25 pounds or so. But it was really just a progression over time.

Q: When you were playing tight end, what was your weight then?

CC: Anywhere right around 250 to 270. I always moved pretty well, regardless of my weight. It didn't really have any negative effect on me.

Q: What did you weigh in at the combine?

CC: 303.

Q: Your senior year, were you in the 295 to 300 range?

CC: Yeah, I started the season at about 295.

Q: You started three games at center and four games at right guard last season. Where do you feel the most comfortable?

CC: I like center probably the most, just because in the end it's just a good feel for me. When it comes to the difference between guard and center, there's not a whole lot of difference other than having the ball. And there's a lot of similarities between the two. In the end, probably center, but I don't see a huge difference.

Q: Do you miss playing tight end?

CC: Every once in a while because you get to catch the ball. But at center, I get the ball every play. So it's pretty cool.

Q: You won the Bob Kalsus award for bravery, integrity and hard work. How much did that mean to you and what did you do to earn that?

CC: It was a tremendous honor. It's right up there as probably my greatest achievement at Oklahoma. And I wouldn't say that I won it this year. I'd like to say my hard work over the last five years were contributing to me winning it. And this year everything kind of came to a head.

Q: You seem to be a very humble and soft spoken guy. Is that pretty accurate, or is there a wild and crazy side to you?

CC: I'm definitely humble, just the way my parents brought me up. I wouldn't say wild and crazy, but I'm definitely quick to make jokes and be a practical joker. I've always got the witty one-liners. I'd like to think I'm a pretty funny guy. I've got a pretty good sense of humor to keep the atmosphere pretty loose.

Q: You've got a son. How old is he?

CC: He is four months old.

Q: How has becoming a father changed your outlook on life and how you're approaching this opportunity to play in the NFL?

CC: Becoming a father you definitely have to be a lot more self sacrificing and less selfish. When I was on my own, I just had to look out for me in the end. When you put someone else's life, including my wife as well, you always have to consider them, and in the end, do what's best for them.

Q: Did any team at the Combine talk to you about being a tight end, instead of an offensive lineman?

CC: The Chiefs did. They said, if for some reason I don't come in right away and get a chance to play at center or guard, I could just be kind of a second tight end in situations so I can get on the field, make an impact and contribute while still working at center at guard.

Q: How much special teams work did you do during college? Were there any specific special teams that you feel you excelled at?

CC: I was on the punt cover team, kickoff return and field goal team as well. The team I liked the most was punt coverage. It was more or less pass set. I was pretty big. We saw a lot of DBs and a lot of smaller guys on the rush. So it was pretty easy to block for the punt team. But also I had good enough feet, where I could be effective in coverage.

Q: How much of an issue was your broken hand and knee injury from your senior year? Did that get brought up quite often during your interviews?

CC: Everyone asked about it because I ended up missing four games. But the injury itself was kind of a typical injury. I didn't even have an MRI on my knee. I was back pretty quick actually. It's usually a four to six weeks for recover, and I was back in four weeks. Also, I didn't have any surgery.

Q: When you had your interviews with the GM's, head coaches or coaches, what is it that you wanted to get across to them about you as a person?

CC: I've always had this kind of lineman mentality and this concept of football. My beliefs on football, especially as a lineman, it's always hard work. And I think that playing offensive line kind of exemplifies that hard work. It's something that always had a whole lot of respect for.


Related: Chester Profile || OL Draft Rankings || Combine numbers || More Draft Articles

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