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Bostic brings lot to Bears table

Emery believes speedy linebacker can be asset at all 3 spots

Dan Pompei

On the NFL

10:40 PM CDT, April 26, 2013

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Jon Bostic may never be all that Brian Urlacher was. Or all that Mike Singletary, Dick Butkus or Bill George were.

But the Bears, in the worst way, need him to be more than Dante Jones or Tom Hicks were.

It's true there are no meager expectations for Bears middle linebackers. But the second-round selection of Bostic in the NFL draft was about more than finding someone to grab the baton.

It was about the sustainability of what historically has been the identity of the Bears. If this team is going to continue to be a defensive power, which it has been pretty consistently since World War II, it needs Bostic to be a building block.

Bostic joins Shea McClellin and Stephen Paea as the only defensive players on the roster the Bears drafted in the first two rounds.

So Bostic not only has to replace Urlacher. He has to help carry on a tradition like no other.

Nineteen players who played primarily with the Bears and were defenders at least some of the time are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. No other team has as many.

Bostic is the hope to bring the past to the future.

"I know they have a great tradition of linebackers," Bostic said. "They have linebackers for days. You could sit here and name plenty of them. I haven't played at this level before, so I know it's going to take a lot of work, a lot of studying to do (but) I'll be able to catch up to the speed of this game."

He can play three linebacker positions, general manager Phil Emery says, but we will call him a middle linebacker until further notice.

Bostic is known as a solid leader and a player who can run the defense.

"He's a guy who can line up others," Emery said. "We brought him in for a visit. We felt very good about his football aptitude and his ability to line everybody else up on the field."

That helped distinguish Bostic.

"It separated him from some others and obviously the more football-smart the players we bring in, the better we're going to be," he said. "That lends him toward flexibility as a football player and being able to (play multiple positions]."

Bostic was one of seven players the Bears had targeted in the second round. They mostly were targeting linebackers and cornerbacks, and there was a run on those positions. Five were taken in the round by the time the Bears' 50th selection came up.

Emery said three of the seven players were left, and the Bears had Bostic rated the highest.

Bostic probably won't replace Urlacher this year. It might be difficult for him to beat out veteran D.J. Williams. In fact, one of the reasons he appealed to the Bears is he is able to play all three linebacker positions as he learns.

But he better be starting by 2014.

Bostic has something in common with Bears' first-round pick Kyle Long. Both are exceptional athletes. Like Long, Bostic was the highest rated player in the Bears' athletic index score at his position.

Clearly, athleticism is a priority for the Bears in this draft.

Bostic, the son of a former Lions cornerback by the same name, is athletic enough to play on passing downs. He was a cornerback and safety in high school, and then thought he was going to be a weak-side linebacker at Florida. He has those kinds of movement skills at 245 pounds.

"This guy is very dynamic," Emery said.

Bostic also ran a 4.61 40-yard dash, which made him the fastest middle linebacker in the draft. In that regard, he is a little like Urlacher, who ran a 4.57 40 when he came out of New Mexico.

The Bears have to hope Bostic is like Urlacher in some other ways, too.

dpompei@tribune.com

Twitter @danpompei