By Chris Emma–
(CBS) Many football traits can be traced to Roy Robertson-Harris’s game — his quick twitch off the snap, his sensational spin move and his natural athleticism at 6-foot-7 and 260 pounds.
Robertson-Harris made 45 percent of his tackles within two yards of the line of scrimmage during his college career at UTEP, the kind of disruptive presence desired of an edge rusher, but a tackle more than 80 yards down field stands out about his makeup.
On Sept. 20, as the UTEP Miners battled New Mexico State on the road, Aggies running back Larry Rose III broke free on an 82-yard run during the fourth quarter of a tie game. He had the end zone in sight during his entire gallop down the sidelines, but his speed wasn’t enough to escape Robertson-Harris, who pivoted at the Aggies’ goal line and ran 84 yards across field to chase down Rose III.
For Robertson-Harris, it was more than a freakish play.
“It’s a want-to, in my eyes,” he said by phone. “If you look at that tape, a lot of guys didn’t want to go make that play.”
That’s the kind of player the Bears are getting. After Robertson-Harris surprisingly went undrafted, even with fifth-round grades by many scouts, Bears outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt won the sweepstakes of some 40 phone calls, with the Packers and Vikings as runners-up. Some teams had multiple executives calling at the same time for Robertson-Harris.
In April, the Bears brought in the former Miners captain for a visit at Halas Hall. Hurtt met with Robertson-Harris and discussed the ways in which he would round out his game. As his name slid out of the draft, Robertson-Harris considered the loyalty shown by the Bears, which came into play as Hurtt called with an offer from Chicago.
“After a while, I realized I wasn’t going to get that (draft) phone call,” Robertson-Harris said. “I talked to coach Hurtt. He said, ‘I can really work with you. Obviously, you’re going to have to step up in special teams, but I’m going to help you work your tail off to be able to play and help us win some ball games.'”
Robertson-Harris wasn’t asked to play special teams at UTEP, though he’s more than confident it will be a natural transition into Jeff Rodgers’ schemes and alongside his personnel. Robertson-Harris will be a stand-up outside linebacker with the Bears, bringing that prototypical frame for a 3-4 edge rusher.
Robertson-Harris proved what he could do in 2015, recording 51 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks in 12 games. He thrived in a leadership role as UTEP team captain.
“They’re bringing an athletic, fast, hard-working player,” he said. “I’m going to do whatever a coach asks me to do. I have no off-the-field issues. I feel like they’re bringing in an all-around football player.”
With the Bears’ desire to get younger and faster and Robertson-Harris’s status as one of the more coveted undrafted free agents, he’ll have a good chance to make the team’s roster. That journey will start soon, as Sunday brings the new beginning for Robertson-Harris. He will leave El Paso and travel up to Lake Forest, joining the Bears’ new rookie class at Halas Hall.
He’s already counting down for that day.
“I’m just blessed to be able to be a part of the Chicago Bears,” he said. “Even saying that right now is crazy. You can’t help but to be excited.”