Al Afalava was an afterthought by the time he was drafted in April by the Bears. Ever since they decided to take a "flyer" on him in the sixth round, I couldn't help but to notice his name and the fact it spurred memories of Troy Polamalu roaming around the Steelers vaunted defense. It really didn't matter what I thought of him, but there was something about him that wreaked of a true sleeper pick. Here's what Brad Biggs said about him less than week before training camp started.
Safety Al Afalava. The Bears went into the draft knowing they needed a free safety but with their draft position, they didn't identify any that would fill their need in what was considered a weak class. They wound up grabbing Afalava in the sixth round, and he's a strong safety although the Bears have said he can play both positions. He's a serious hitter and should provide some exciting moments late in some preseason games that are otherwise not exciting. It could be an uphill battle to make the roster and just being a thumper won't get it done for him. He needs to show instincts first. Missing the bulk of the offseason program because of the rules for schools like Oregon State that are on the quarter system didn't help him.
Al got a late start to camp because of the Stay in school program prevented him from practicing more than once during the first OTA sessions. Once he got a chance to settle down in training camp, it was only a matter of time before getting the attention of the coaching staff and surprisingly from his veteran teammates. His "wild eyes" got people to make crazy comparisons to Mike Singletary's extremely intense playing demeanor. His instincts, mean-streak, size, and athleticism could be a God send for the Bears underachieving and undertalented secondary. So far, he's brought an intensity to the defense that really hasn't had a sense of urgency since the '06 season. In addition to his physical presence, he's shown to be a very quick study with the Bears playbook despite missing all of June's OTA practices. Here's a Lovie quote from today's article at yahoo.com.
"We're trying to get ready for Green Bay (season opener) and we have to bring him along quickly," Bears coach Lovie Smith said Tuesday. "He missed the bulk of our off-season work related to his school but he has caught up quickly. He is a quick learner."
Hopefully, this bodes well for a Bears defense desperately needing a "shot in the arm." With Afalava poised to win the starting SS position, Payne shifting to FS, and Bowman (if healthy) at CB, the Bears could have a very physical secondary. With all that said, what does everyone think about Al's chances this season? Please click for Afalava's pro-day (I get chills watching this) and poll below. I linked it up cause I couldn't get the video insert down at the bottom of the page.