We’re heading into the dog days of the offseason, counting the days until the Chicago Bears 2014 season kicks off. Thanks to Bear Goggles On contributor and the fine editor of Blackhawk Up Keith Schultz’s suggestion, we’re going to do a Top 100 list of the all time Chicago Bears. It’s a fun way to pass the time and take a stroll down memory lane.
Next up in our Top 100 is Jerry Azumah, checking in at #85. The Bears selected Azumah in the 5th round of the 1999 NFL Draft out of New Hampshire. Azumah set Division I-AA records for rushing yards and all-purpose yards at New Hampshire, but at just 5’10″ and 192 pounds, the Bears thought his best position in the NFL would be at cornerback. Azumah was selected as the rookie recipient of the Brian Piccolo Award, a testament to his character and involvement in the community, even as a rookie.
The transition was slow, but Azumah converted into a solid starter at cornerback after a couple of seasons biding his time behind Tom Carter, Terry Cousin and Thomas Smith. By 2001, Azumah was a regular contributor and started 5 games, recording 49 tackles, 2 sacks and an interception. In that surprising season, Azumah returned an interceptions 39 yards for a touchdown to give the Bears a brief lead in their 33-19 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
Azumah’s best season was in 2003 when he led the league as a kick returner. Azumah averaged a league-best 29 yards per kickoff return. That earned him a trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.
In his career, he appeared in 105 games with 48 starts. He had 384 tackles, 10 interceptions, 29 pass defense, 6.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles and one recovery on defense and 2885 return yards and 2 TD’s in his 7 seasons with the Bears before retiring following the 2005 season. Today, Azumah does some Bears post-game work besides his philanthropic endeavors.
What do you think of the ranking? Too high? Too low? I guess you’ll have to check back to see who finished ahead of him to judge for yourself. We’ll be counting down a different person each day as we inch our way to the September 7th season opener.