Friday, February 4, 2011

Fantuz Story From Chi-Town

The Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs has this story on Andy Fantuz signing with the Bears.

He has his own cereal in Canada, where Andy Fantuz has been one of the top offensive players in the CFL.

But the 27-year-old wide receiver wants to make it in the NFL and signed a reserve/futures contract with the Bears on Friday, putting him in the mix for training camp this summer and giving the team something it doesn't have other than tight end Greg Olsen: a big target at 6-4, 220 pounds.

Fantuz caught 87 passes for 1,380 yards and six touchdowns last season for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He was the first Canadian-born player to lead the league in receiving since 1995.

"It was a tough decision," Fantuz told the Tribune. "I had a great thing going and I was happy with what was going on. In sports and in any business you always want to reach the top level. If you reach the top level, you want to find a bigger business.

"It's been a dream for me growing up in an Americanized community where we watched more NFL than CFL to reach the NFL. That was the end goal. I have nothing against the CFL or Sasketchewan, both the team and the league have been great to me. I'm going to miss them but I'm looking forward to this opportunity."

Fantuz, who worked out at Halas Hall last month, chose the Bears over similar offers from the Steelers, Patriots and Bills. He hit it off with wide receivers coach Darryl Drake and weighed factors like the offensive scheme and depth chart when making his decision. He's familiar with the Bears, having grown up in Chatham, Ontario, not 50 miles from Detroit and NFC North country.

"I like how the organization is tough-nosed and classy," he said. "I see myself having a good opportunity to make the team and I'm excited to come into camp and try."

Fantuz met Bears defensive end Israel Idonije at an awards banquet after the receiver's freshman year at the University of Western Ontario. Idonije was being honored as the top defensive lineman in Canada and Fantuz won rookie of the year honors. He has followed Idonije's career closely and Miami Dolphins linebacker Cameron Wake is an inspiration for all players in the CFL after making 19 1/2 sacks in his first two NFL seasons following a transition from the Canadian game.

"This is a big step forward but I still have a long ways to go," Fantuz said. "I just have my foot in the door. I have to fight for a position on the team now but it's almost like a dream."

Don't look for Fantuz Flakes in the cereal aisle at your grocery store anytime soon. He's just looking to fit in.

"I personally see myself having a good opportunity," he said.

Fantuz helped the Roughriders reach the Grey Cup and was named an all-star for the first time in 2010.

The only other big target on the depth chart for the Bears is Devin Aromashodu, and the 6-2, 200-pounder is a restricted free agent. Based on how seldom he was used, it wouldn't be a surprise if he was not tendered.

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