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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bears draft safety Afalava in Round 6

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Bears on Sunday selected Oregon State safety Al Afalava with the 190th overall pick in the sixth round of the NFL Draft.three-year starter, the 5-11, 213-pounder is a tough and aggressive tackler. Afalava started all 11 games in which he played last season as a senior, registering 36 tackles, eight pass breakups and two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

In 2007, he started all 13 games and registered 63 tackles and three pass breakups. Afalava played free safety at Oregon State in 2006 before moving to strong safety. The Bears feel that he has the skill set to play free safety, but he likely will begin his pro career at the strong position.

Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel called Afalava a “great athlete” and said that he was timed at 4.48 or 4.49 in the 40-yard dash, had a 40-inch vertical leap, a 10’5” long jump and had 25 reps bench-pressing 225 points.

“He played up close for them, more in the box, but based on his workout—the hands and the range that he showed, we think he can play either,” Gabriel said.

Asked about his preference, Afalava said: “I played both in our system. Whatever the coaches want to play, I’ll do it. I’ll play long-snapper if I need to.”

Afalava opened his senior season by serving a one-game suspension that came after he was arrested and charged with a DUI in February 2008. He agreed to a plea bargain and was sentenced to a diversion program and his license was suspended for 90 days.

“He’s gone through the court system,” Gabriel said. “We checked into everything, did our research, and everything came back good. We’re very comfortable with the situation.”

The Bears attended Afalava’s Pro Day workout and brought him to Halas Hall for a pre-draft visit.

“I had a feeling that I was going to come back to Chicago after my visit,” Afalava said. “I really enjoyed it. I got along with the coaches. I had that feeling. It’s going to be a pleasure being a Bear.”

Afalava played on special teams in college and knows that he must contribute in that aspect of the game before vying for playing time on defense.

“Every team has told me that you have to be a good special teams player before trying to compete for the safety job,” Afalava said.

“My freshman year, people used to love watching me on kickoffs because I would just go down there and hit people. I love kickoff and punt returns. I did a little bit of punt and a little bit of kick returns in my early career.”

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