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Bears punter Tory Taylor on surprising fourth-round selection: 'Thought I may have gone a little bit earlier'

Having followed the script in a universally lauded first round, the Chicago Bears shook things up in the 2024 NFL Draft's fourth round.

That's when, with pick No. 122, the Bears took Iowa punter Tory Taylor, making the former Hawkeyes booter the first specialist taken in the draft with the earliest selection for a punter since 2019.

It was stunningly premature in the eyes of many, but not Taylor, who thought he could go even earlier.

"I kind of thought I may have gone a little bit earlier to a couple other teams," Taylor said this week on The Sick Podcast with Adam Rank. "A few special teams coaches rung and texted me on the day saying, 'Hey, really hope you're a such and such once the day ends.' And I kind of thought, oh, don't just say it let's make it happen. But a lot of the time, it's really up to I guess the GM and things like that and whoever makes those sort of calls, but, at the end of the day if they wanted me they should've come and got me.

"But I'm glad they didn't because I'm at the Bears now. It's literally perfect."

It was clearly a perfect fit for general manager Ryan Poles, who pounced on Taylor because he "didn’t expect him to get much further."

Though it was long before the Poles regime, Chicago has a bit of a history taking punters early.

Taylor, an Australian native who shined in college at Iowa, is the third-earliest punter taken in Bears common draft history (since 1967), per NFL Research. The Bears used a third-round pick on Chris Gardocki in 1991 and a second-round pick on Todd Sauerbrun in 1995. Gardocki and Sauerbrun were each All-Pros, with Gardocki winning a Super Bowl and Sauerbrun going to multiple Pro Bowls, but none of those accolades came while with the Bears.

Taylor's aiming to change that Bears historical footnote.

His resume would offer plenty of reason as to why he can. Then there's the added factor that he starred often times playing in the harsh weathers of the Big Ten. He's looking forward to his first time setting foot on Soldier Field, no matter the forecast.

"Just playing at Soldier Field and being a Chicago Bear," Taylor said of what he's looking forward to most. "I'm obviously being pretty biased, but it's the Chicago Bears, you know what I mean? There's just something about it."

As Taylor's tale goes, he was hoping to land in Chicago, but with the Bears holding just four picks entering the draft (Poles and Co. traded back in for a fifth selection) he believed it was an unlikely scenario.

Then his phone rang and the Aussie with the big leg was bound for the Windy City.

"I saw the Illinois number on my phone, and I was just like, 'No effing way. Is this really happening?'" he said. "And it's literally like a dream come true. Because I really, really wanted to come to Chicago. But I was like, ah, man, are they going to draft a punter? They've only got four draft picks. It's really one of those things that was probably a little bit of a stretch. But I really wanted to come to Chicago."

Taylor arrived Thursday for rookie camp. Along with his bags, he arrives as a two-time All-American and a one-time Ray Guy Award winner as college football's top punter. In the 2023 season in which he garnered the Ray Guy hardware, he set an NCAA single-season record with 4,479 punting yards, coming with an average per punt of 48.2 yards.

Of course, as he joins the Bears, he joins a squad looking to turn things around following three straight losing seasons. Thus, the less Taylor seen on the field, the better for the Bears, more than likely.

It was a point made via text by Caleb Williams, the No. 1 overall pick of the '24 draft and the Bears' new quarterback. Shortly after Taylor was taken on Day 3 of the draft, the USC product sent a text message to Chicago's newest special teamer that read, per Taylor, "Hey you're not going to punt too much."

Prior to that, Taylor really didn't know Williams, but he liked the message.

"I never actually met him at the combine," Taylor said. "I ran into him in the hallway a couples times and I was like, what's up, man? But he would not have any idea who I was, he would not remember that. Obviously, I'm like it's Caleb Williams, the No. 1 pick, obviously I knew who he was. So, I'd seen him a couple times, but never really met him, I guess. But yeah to get a text from him was certainly pretty cool and possible when he said, 'Oh you're not going to be punting much,' I was like, that's cool with me, let's go win some games."

That's the hope of the fourth-round punter and all of Chicago.

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