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Long-snapping skill is bait for NFL hooks

Brad Fortney

Brad Fortney

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Brad Fortney has been offered a tryout at the Bears’ rookie minicamp this weekend.

There will be 15 or more other players attending the minicamp on a tryout basis at various positions, including Wisconsin-Whitewater QB Matt Blanchard, who quarterbacked Lake Zurich to a 7A state title in 2006.

Fortney is a 2007 Antioch High grad. He was a three-year varsity starter in high school.

Specs: 6-0, 245 pounds, 4.7 40-yard dash.

Started all four years at Carthage College in Kenosha as a linebacker; also long-snapped.

Playing middle linebacker, he was first-team All-CCIW; led the team with 68 tackles; he also had 11 tackles for loss and 2 sacks.

Fortney is also a shot and discus thrower on the Carthage track team.

Started his masters degree in education and leadership this past fall.

Patrick Mannelly has been the Bears’ long-snapper since 1998; Mannelly tore his ACL last season against San Diego and finished the season on IR. Veteran former Rams long-snapper Chris Massey finished the season as Mannelly’s replacement (if Fortney seems small, consider his height and weight are very similar to Massey’s).

Updated: July 9, 2012 1:45AM

Brad Fortney knows that undersized linebackers from NCAA Division 3 college football programs don’t get invited to NFL rookie minicamps.

Which means the Antioch High School graduate already has beaten the odds by earning an invite to the Chicago Bears’ minicamp that will be held this weekend in Lake Forest.

And if he could beat the odds once ... well, why not a second time?

That’s how the likeable graduate from tiny Carthage College in Kenosha is approaching this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

It’s an opportunity that’s knocked for two reasons:

■ He’s skilled as a long-snapper (the center who fires the ball back between his legs on field-goal attempts and punts.

■ Last year, the Bears’ long-snapper, Pat Mannelly, tore his ACL midway through the season and the team found itself ill-prepared and scuffling in terms of a replacement.

Enter Fortney, who’s thrilled to have a chance to show what he can do.

Here’s what he had to say about his big chance:

On long-snapping: “That’s what they’re bringing me in for.”

On Pat Mannelly: “More than likely, if they decide to stick with Mannelly and want me to be the backup, they’d put me on the practice squad. On the 53-man roster, there’s not really enough room for a backup long-snapper. But no matter what happens, that experience of being at a team’s minicamp is a great thing to have on my resume. It helps my agent sell me to other teams, because I was a guy that they saw enough talent in to bring in and take a look at.”

On how teams tell long-snappers apart:

“Speed is important, but a lot of it has to do with accuracy. If you’re all over the place it doesn’t really matter how fast you can get it back there. If you can put it on the hip every time, that’s what they want to see.”

On his weekend as a Bear:

“I’ll be at Halas Hall on Thursday. They take really good care of you. They put you up in a hotel and make sure you get where you need to be. Once it gets started, it’s pretty much practices and meetings all day.

And then what?

“I’ll find out probably Monday or Tuesday next week what their plans are for me.”

A dream come true: “My goal was to make it to a pro day and show off my talent. I wanted to prove that even though I came from a Division 3 school, I had something to offer to NFL teams. I was able to do that, and with the help of my agent, it opened up opportunities for me. ”

On giving thanks:

“EFT Sports Performance in Highland Park did a great job getting me prepared for my pro day.”

On Duh Bears:

“I couldn’t be happier that it was the Bears offering me a tryout. They’re a very classy organization. I’m a nobody coming out of a small Division 3 school, but during my pro day they all knew who I was and treated me as if I was one of the guys coming out of a major college program. I was really blown away.”

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