Your family will always follow you. Whether you want to or not, you can’t choose your blood relatives. Often, you don’t have much of a say, if at all, in any part of your upbringing. You’re all tied at the hip, brought together forever by common circumstance. Iron sharpens iron, and family members truly sharpen one another.
New Bears offensive lineman Badara Traore knows a thing or two about the impact of family. The son of West African immigrants, Traore’s parents had their children move across the pond to the United States in search of a better life. His parents believed meaningful opportunities could not be found in the poverty-stricken areas of Mali and Guinea where the family originated from. Even if it was thousands of miles away from their home, even if it spanned across completely contrasted cities and cultures, the American Dream was what the Traores desired for their children. The journey to success was going to be arduous, and assuredly, it was anything but guaranteed. But the American Dream would nonetheless have to suffice.
Fate smiled upon Traore and his parents when it turned out he was a gifted athlete. After years of early morning train rides, grueling practices, and many an uncomfortable conversation about his future, the 6-foot-7 323-pound Traore soon became one of the nation’s top football recruits. That led to Ed Orgegon’s LSU Tigers, which manifested in an roster spot on a national champion. Not long after, the contract with an NFL team finally arrived, in this case the Bears. The American Dream realized.
Traore faces long odds to make Chicago’s final roster this coming summer. Undrafted free agent offensive linemen are typically undrafted for a reason. They’re raw. They’re unpolished. Sometimes, rather, most of the time, they flat out don’t belong in the NFL. If Traore’s going to make something of himself, his development will take time. If he’s going to contribute in any discernible fashion, then he better prepared for more than a few bumps in the road. Fortunately for this young man, he’s had plenty of experience with adversity. A flat tire here and then shouldn’t bother a person like Traore who’s, to this point, cleared every hurdle in front of him.
To get a deeper sense of Traore’s collegiate profile, I spoke to And The Valley Shook’s Managing Editor, Zachary Junda. From limited snaps, to versatility at the tackle spots, we touched on the cards Traore holds in his hand.
1. A former junior college transfer in 2018, Traore never seemed to see much regular playing time with LSU. Why is that, and what contributions was he able to make by the end of his collegiate career?
Zachary Junda: 1. Traore didn’t make much of an impact over a great deal of his career. Injuries played a role, but the fact remains. The most he was able to do was start a pair of games. One was the season opener this past fall, when LSU hadn’t settled on their best five up front, the other against Ole Miss due to injury. He only played 241 snaps last season and 151 came in three games. He’s as backup of an offensive lineman as it gets, quite frankly. Every team wants to play its best five offensive linemen. Traore wasn’t one of those five.
The concerning aspect is that the weak link on LSU’s offensive line was their tackles. Left tackle Saahdiq Charles was suspended six games and Traore still couldn’t seize that spot. Nor could beat out Austin Deculus for the right tackle spot, and Deculus was the obvious weak link along the entire Tigers offensive line. For whatever reason, perhaps a lack of ability, perhaps the other offensive linemen were simply better, but Traore made virtually no starting impact for LSU in his two years at Baton Rouge.
2. How would you characterize Traore’s strengths and weaknesses as a player? Where could he make a potential impact with Chicago?
ZJ: Traore can play both tackle spots, which means he could at least carve out a role as a swing tackle. But he was never asked to try his hand at offensive guard and he’s not a potential center. If he can do what he did at LSU and provide depth at tackle, that’ll be the only way he can make an impact with the Bears.
3. With Traore on his way to the Big League, what’s a unique story or anecdote from his time at LSU?
ZJ: Traora is just a guy who makes it, despite any pitfalls in his path. He’s the son of West African immigrants and he won a national championship at LSU after spending his first two years playing JUCO ball. I don’t know where you stand on the whole intangible thing but Traore will bring that to any offensive line. Somehow, someway, Traore keeps making it.
Follow Zach on Twitter @ZacharyJunda and read his work at And The Valley Shook.
Follow Robert on Twitter @RobertZeglinski. You can’t take a picture of this, it’s already gone.