LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The deal to acquire quarterback Jay Cutler from Denver left the Bears without a first round draft choice in 2009.
If the Bears, for arguments sake, had kept that first-round pick (No. 18 overall), there is a strong possibility Jerry Angelo would've selected Florida wide receiver Percy Harvin, who is believed to have been the No. 1 overall player on the Bears draft board in 2009.
"I wrote him up [predraft] as a returner, and we called him a 'blue', somebody we thought could come in and be a difference-maker," Bears special teams coach Dave Toub said. "He was hands-down a blue as a returner, and no doubt, we would love to have him. He's scary. He's a guy you have to make a conscience effort where you place the ball on [kickoff], how you place the ball, how you cover. Everybody is aware of him, every time."
"Coming out, he was a multipurpose guy," Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake said. "You could see he could do anything. They put him all over the place [at Florida] and he was able to excel. When he was in college football [he] was the most dynamic player in college football at that time. Just his body control, his hips, and those kinds of things are just gifts he has."
While the Bears eventually moved out of the second round and selected defensive lineman Jarron Gilbert and wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias in Round 3, Harvin went to division rival Minnesota in the opening round at No. 22, where he went on to make the Pro Bowl and be voted AP Offensive rookie of the Year.
"If you were a betting man, you would've said he was going to come in and make an impact," Bears head coach Lovie Smith said. "He was a special player in college. Normally those special players in college, especially the skill guys, ended up doing the same thing. It's not like it's a shock. They [Minnesota] got him at a good place because you can make the case he could've, and should've, gone higher."
Bears rookie safety Major Wright played two seasons with Harvin at Florida.
"He is a great athlete, you just put him out there and he's capable of doing anything," Wright said. "I knew he would make a mark in the NFL because I practiced against him every day. He's strong, fast, and with him getting of the line [of scrimmage], he has a quick step that kind of shocks people."
>Harvin is actually on track to have an even more productive sophomore campaign. After eight games, Harvin is
is the Vikings leading receiver with 40 catches for 519 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also took back a kickoff 95-yards for a score against Dallas on October 17, his third kickoff return touchdown in only 68 career attempts.
The former first-round pick ranks second in the NFL with 1,228 combined net yards in 2010.
"He’s just got a lot of God-given ability," Drake said. "He’s strong, strong in his legs; just an incredible athlete. He just has it all. He can catch, run, he can get out of his breaks as well as anybody in the game. So he’s just a special athlete."
Of course, it's not always smooth sailing with Harvin -- officially listed as questionable for Sunday's game at Soldier Field. The receivers has dealt with variety of health problems, including migraine headaches, and reportedly had a confrontation with Vikings head coach Brad Childress last week at practice.
But the Bears were spot on when it came to identifying Harvin's talent and potential on the NFL level.