Exclusive Interview: Getting to know Bears' undrafted rookie LB Roy Robertson-Harris

Exclusive Interview: Getting to know Bears' undrafted rookie LB Roy Robertson-Harris
UTEP OLB Roy Robertson-Harris (43) chasing Louisiana Tech QB Jeff Driskel in a game on Nov. 21, 2015 (UTEP Athletics/Michael Patrick Reese)

Ever since Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs left the Bears, the defense in Chicago hasn’t acted like Monsters of the Midway, but things are looking up in 2016. Priority undrafted free agent UTEP’s Roy Robertson-Harris and No. 9 overall pick Georgia’s Leonard Floyd are two big outside backers standing at 6’6”.

Playing with Floyd is something that Robertson-Harris thinks will be great.

“Me and Leonard can play really good defense together,” Floyd said on Monday in a phone interview.
“I think we’ll be really good teammates and help Chicago make the playoffs and hopefully win a Super Bowl.”

After the final moments of the NFL Draft ended Saturday, teams looked into the players they wanted to sign as undrafted free agents. Robertson-Harris got the call from Bears’ scout Francis St. Paul and outside linebackers coach Clint Hurtt while sitting at his parent’s house in Dallas, Texas along with 25 friends and family.

“It is a life changing experience to get the opportunity to play football again. It is a blessing. My mom started crying and my dad started crying, so ‘I was like don’t do that to me’. It’s an overwhelming feeling when you get the call that you get to play football again so I just took in the moment.”

Robertson-Harris told me that Hurtt has a ton of confidence in his game.

“He [Hurtt] can really turn me into a great player as long as I take his coaching and work my tail off then nothing will stop me.”

Although some experts had Robertson-Harris being selected on Day 3 of the draft process, he didn’t actually expect to be drafted. He says he is kind of disappointed by not being selected, but St. Paul told him that he was the No. 1 priority free agent that the Bears wanted.

At 6’6”, 260 lbs, Robertson-Harris knows he has to play special teams and then work his way up. He totaled 138 tackles (25 for a loss) with 10½ sacks and 16 quarterback pressures in 47 career games, 33 starts. He calls his experiences at UTEP good overall, but it had its bad moments.

“I didn’t get to rush as much as I could have. There were a lot of different fire zones that we were in.  I made as many plays as I could. Going into the Bears defense I feel like I can make a lot more plays than when I was at UTEP.”

The Bears invited Robertson-Harris to Halas Hall for a private workout along with Floyd on April 18. Considering the team used one of its 30 pre-draft visits on a guy like Robertson-Harris, a senior team captain, is a confidence builder for him.

“The workout I think was a great experience overall. Just to be able to work out for an NFL team, I thought that was really good. Being able to fly out to Chicago for a visit was even better. Obviously, I felt like I was doing something right. I just took it all in and enjoyed the process.”

Robertson-Harris chatted with head coach John Fox for a bit during his visit and although Fox admitted that he hadn’t seen his game tape, he understands that Fox is worried about the guys he has in place already. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and Hurtt sat with Robertson-Harris in a film session telling him that they love his potential and that you can be as great as you want to be.

After the visit ended, Robertson-Harris and Floyd drove in a limo to O’Hare Airport. He says that Floyd is a really good guy and seems really smart. Although the two didn’t talk much, he can tell that Floyd is not only humble but that he’s going to be a great teammate.

As for a set position for Robertson-Harris, he played inside, outside and standing up at every spot in UTEP’s 4-2-5 scheme. He told me that coach Hurtt envisions him as both an outside linebacker and defensive end for the Bears.

In college, Robertson-Harris’ playing weight was around 245-250 lbs. He says getting to 260 this off-season just kind of happened.

“I realized that there are bigger guys in the league so I’m going to need more push weight. But at the same time I didn’t want to lose my speed. I didn’t want to put too much weight on so I could still be able to be athletic and fast. I feel I’m at a good weight.”

The Bears' rookie development program next Monday will mark just his third visit to Chicago. After coming to town last month on his visit and heading downtown to ESPN Zone on a drive from Shelbyville, Ind. at age 15, Robertson-Harris is going to make time to try authentic Chicago deep dish pizza this time around.

I suggested Pizzeria UNO. My favorite.

This past week has been pretty crazy for Robertson-Harris so some pizza will be much needed. On top of the draft, his fiancée and him signed their marriage license just a few days ago. The two college sweethearts who met during his freshman year at UTEP have their first child due in August. Robertson-Harris and his wife will tie the knot officially sometime next year.

Turning 23 in July, he has learned that he’s not just playing the game of football for himself anymore.

“At UTEP I was playing for myself hoping to get a chance to play in the NFL. Now, it’s to represent my family and give it all on the field.”

Speaking of family, one of Robertson-Harris’ first cousins is former NFL All-Pro guard Carl Nicks. Nicks played from 2008-2013 between New Orleans and Tampa Bay winning a Super Bowl in 2009. Robertson-Harris says Nicks has given him plenty of tips on how to be a true pro.

“He [Nicks] told me to just be yourself and to go out there, play your game and not worry about anyone else. I look at Carl and I see a guy who’s won a Super Bowl, went to two Pro Bowls, he’s done it all. It’s been great to see what he’s done in the league and he’s definitely someone I look up to.”

At age 12, Robertson-Harris first discovered the game of football growing up in Oakland, California. Although he didn’t like it that much at first, a move to Dallas the following year sparked his interest. He didn’t start playing on defense until his freshman year of high school while doubling as a tight end. His final two prep seasons were spent exclusively on defense where he says he gained the confidence that he has today.

He’s been to two NFL games ever, both to watch Nicks and he says they were both great. He used those games as motivation.

“Ever since then I have to do everything that I can and work my tail off. I’m ready to work my tail off to be the best guy I can be.”

What are the Bears getting in Robertson-Harris the football player?

“Athletic hard working football smart, football loving person overall. A guy that loves the game and can’t wait to work his tail off.”

Off the field, he is a family man who wants to give back to the community

“I want to be able to serve in my community and be a great role model for kids.”

He calls being a member of the Bears a blessing considering their long and successful history.

“To be with an NFL organization in general is a great experience. I’m ready to get to work out and see what Chicago has in store for me.”

Robertson-Harris is used to making solid first impressions. On his first play at UTEP as a freshman in 2012, he sacked former Oklahoma and now Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Landry Jones.

“I didn’t know what to do with myself. My mind was everywhere and it was an all-around great experience."

He calls Louisiana Tech running back Kenneth Dixon the best player he faced at the collegiate level. Dixon was selected in the fourth round this weekend by the Baltimore Ravens.

Heading into his first set of practices in the NFL, Robertson-Harris is excited to just be able to play football again.

“It’s been a while since my last game. I’m ready to put a helmet on and learn a lot from NFL coaches. I just want to play and enjoy myself.”

Not only does this kid have leadership skills on and off the field, he is very intelligent and willing to do whatever it takes to be great. He fits the bill as a Chicago Bear under Pace and Fox. If he keeps working at the task ahead, him and Floyd could turn into the new Monsters of the Midway.

Behind veterans Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, Lamarr Houston and Sam Acho, Robertson-Harris should be able to learn a ton.

***

Quick hitters

Favorite players - former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, Oakland Raiders defensive end Khalil Mack, Los Angeles Rams defensive end Robert Quinn
Favorite music before games - Kevin Gates and The Weeknd
Favorite movies - Most recently, Batman v. Superman
Favorite TV shows - Daredevil, Friday Night Lights, Sons of Anarchy and Prison Break
Fun fact no one knows about him – “I like to bake to cakes and cookies. I’m a Betty Crocker in the Kitchen.” Strawberry Cake is his top cake.
Nickname – “Big Roy”

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