Bears TE Shaheen leaping from D-2 to NFL
Ashland tight end Adam Shaheen, the Bears' second-round draft pick, faces all the same obstacles as any rookie, but he has the added hurdle of making the leap from Division-II to the NFL.
Fortunately for him, Shaheen has a lot of qualities that transcend level of competition.
"His size and ability to track the ball and make all the catches," Bears tight ends coach Frank Smith said when asked what jumps out to him about the 6-foot-6, 277-pound Shaheen. "He showed that on tape."
Playing in the NFL wasn't in Shaheen's plans when he started college as a 195-pound basketball player at Division-II Pittsburgh-Johnstown following a high school career in which he was all conference in both sports. But after attending a Wisconsin-Ohio State football game as a freshman, Shaheen realized how much he missed the physicality and camaraderie of the gridiron, so he transferred to Ashland in northeast Ohio.
After a year of getting re-acclimated to football and a steady diet of double-chicken, extra-extra-white-rice burritos from Chipotle, Shaheen looked the part.
In 2015 he caught 70 passes, a D-2 record for tight ends, averaged 11.5 yards per catch and had 10 TD receptions.
Even though Ashland hadn't had a player drafted since 1972, when linebacker Bill Overmyer was chosen in the 14th round (352nd overall) by the Philadelphia Eagles, Shaheen started seeing himself as an NFL player.
"I just kind of looked in the mirror," he said. "I was 6-6 and about 260 at that time. I thought I had the intangibles and the physical traits to play."
Soon after, NFL teams began to share Shaheen's opinion.
"It really hit me when that next fall camp started," he said, "and scouts started rolling through practices pretty consistently throughout the year."
Last year Shaheen caught 16 TD passes, the most of any college tight end, while averaging 15.2 yards on 52 receptions.
Despite the weight he added for football, Shaheen retained all his basketball athleticism. He ran a 4.79 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine and also pumped out a position-best 24 bench-press reps of 225 pounds.
It's been almost impossible not to notice Shaheen during this weekend's rookie minicamp, where he's displayed soft hands and the movement skills of a big wide receiver. And, with his size, strength and wingspan, he's open even when he's covered.
After the first day of working with Shaheen, first-round pick quarterback Mitch Trubisky came away impressed.
"Adam's gonna be a great player," Trubisky said. "It's really cool to throw to him. You can tell he loves being out here as well. I've never thrown to a guy that big. He has huge range to catch the ball, so it makes it a lot easier for me."
Because he was such a pass-catching weapon at Ashland, Shaheen didn't do much blocking, but with his size and strength, he projects to become more than serviceable in that area.
"His blocking is a large area where he can improve and grow," Bears tight end coach Frank Smith said. "It's been good to just see him (taking) what we did in the classroom from Day One onto the field."
After just two days of working against other rookies, Shaheen doesn't know for sure how quickly he can make the transition from D-2 to NFL, but he has the size and skill set to make it happen in a hurry.
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