Exclusive Interview: Getting to know Bears' undrafted rookie OL Dan Buchholz

Exclusive Interview: Getting to know Bears' undrafted rookie OL Dan Buchholz
Duquesne LT Dan Buchholz (60) celebrates with RB Ryan Ho (22) in a game against Sacred Heart on Oct. 18, 2014 (Duquesne Athletics)

Just five minutes after the final round of the NFL Draft ended on Saturday night, Duquesne offensive lineman Dan Buchholz got the call he had been waiting for quite some time. College scouting director Bobby Macedo informed Buchholz that he was going to a member of the Chicago Bears.

He recalled that the whole day was a stressful time, but that Macedo told him to keep his phone on him as the seventh round was drawing to a close. The big moment came while sitting in his parent’s house in Malvern, Pennsylvania along with 15 people that consisted of his friends and family.

“It got kind of quiet when my phone went off. I left the room, I didn’t want everyone to hear me," he told me in a phone conversation. "Then I walked back in the room and said I’m a Chicago Bear. Everyone lit up.”

Simply taking it all in Buchholz thought to himself at that moment that this is “my chance right here, this is it.”

The 6’4”, 301-pounder knew his market was in college free agency. He says he would have been surprised to have been drafted, but getting selected would have been nice.

A four-year starter at Duquesne, he started all but one game, making 45 starts for the FCS school at left tackle. He missed one game as a sophomore due to a hand injury, but other than that he was a mainstay for the Dukes.

“That’s where the cards fell my freshman year. I was looked at as a versatile guy. They didn’t really know where they wanted to play me along the offensive line. I was kind of the sixth man and then the starting left tackle went down with a torn ACL. I stepped in and stayed there the rest of my career and had some good success.”

He says getting thrown into the fire like that as a true freshman is something that he was prepared for.

“I felt like the coaches prepared me pretty well for it. I was playing around some veterans that helped me adjust to it pretty quickly. The transition was pretty easy.”

A left tackle and defensive end at Great Valley High School in Pennsylvania, Buchholz wasn’t always a lineman.

Starting his football life at five years old, he played quarterback up until he turned 12. Then from there he made the transition to tight end and defensive end. He was thrown onto the offensive and defensive lines at Great Valley simply because he was one of the bigger guys there. He says growing up he was always taller than most.

As a freshman, he was only 210 lbs., but by the time sophomore year came around, he bulked up to 250 lbs. He says playing quarterback for a good portion of his life is something that now helps him understand the game quicker. “Reading defenses and recognizing fronts is something that comes easy to me now,” he said.

A day before his pro day on March 16, Buchholz met with scouts from the Bears and Colts who came to town to visit with him. He also took part in the local day for his favorite team growing up, the hometown Eagles.

He went out for a meal with Macedo where he says the two had a nice long conversation and got to know each other. Macedo told him that the Bears see him as a center who can play guard. As Buchholz says, he’s a guy that can come in and provide depth and versatility.

Although he’s never taken a single snap in a game at center, he says he is very comfortable snapping the football. That’s something the Bears clearly value in his game as he competes behind second-year Oregon product Hroniss Grasu and longtime veteran Manny Ramirez.

“I got a lot of reps in practice at center. They always got me prepared if I needed to go in. I’m excited to get repetitions against live competition.”

Getting to work for two bright minds in general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox is something that really gets Buchholz pumped up.

“I’ve heard nothing but great things about Pace and Fox. I’m super excited to work with them and get to know them. As far as offensive line, getting to learn from someone like Kyle Long, I can’t wait for that.”

When he thinks of the Bears, he looks back to the 80’s when he said the team was made up of all grinders. He’s glad to be a part of such a historic franchise.

A week before the draft, Buchholz was down in Bradenton, Florida at IMG Academy training with current New England Patriots and former Central Florida wide receiver Torrian Wilson.

Buchholz ran a 5.06-second 40-yard dash at his Pro day and recorded 28 bench press reps, both very solid postings.

He may be in the NFL now, but he didn’t always know if he was going to make it this far. He says he honestly didn’t know what to expect heading into college.

“I wanted to see how my career year played out. I think it hit me that I could have a shot during my junior year pro day. There was good feedback from junior year film and how I played. Then I just ran from there and performed well as a senior.”

Playing in the FCS, Buchholz matched up with Bears’ sixth round pick William & Mary safety DeAndre Houston-Carson last November in the first round of the playoffs.

“When I heard I was signing with the Bears that really excited that I was going to get to meet him [Houston-Carson].  I knew he was All-American potential. We talked about him all week in the scouting report leading up to that game.”

In that game, Houston-Carson returned a blocked kick 65 yards for a touchdown as William & Mary snuck past Duquesne 52-49 to pull out the victory.

Flying to Chicago for the first time in his life on Sunday, Buchholz is going to give deep dish pizza a shot when he gets the chance to. He says everything he’s heard about Chicago is that it is one of the most beautiful cities in the country.

Now that he’s making his way to the city for the first time with the rookie football developmental program starting on May 9th, he wants everyone to know who he is on and off the field.

On the field: “I’m a hard worker. I’m going to come out and compete and work hard on every play and try to beat the man across from me. I’m never going to give up on anything.”

Off the field: “I’m not going to cause any problems that’s for sure. I’ll sit down and learn to be the best. I’m a pretty laid back guy outside of football. I have a switch that when I’m on the field I’m a pretty different person. I like to keep a smile on my face and everyone around me.”

Buchholz says his biggest role model in his life is his father because of his relentless work ethic. He comes from a family football players as his three cousins have all played college football including Ryan Buchholz, who is currently a defensive end at Penn State. Erik played at James Madison and Carl was at Maryland.

Two of the best players Buchholz says he ever went up against were Shawn Oakman and Jeff Covitz. Oakman and Buchholz squared off in high school while Covitz, a member of the Browns last year's minicamp played at Bryant in college.

Buchholz knows one of the Bears’ undrafted signees very well in Buffalo tackle John Kling. Getting going here next week is something he’s looking forward to a lot.

“I have the chance to step in and compete and fulfill my dream of becoming an NFL player. I have to recognize the speed of the game and get to play with all these guys that I’ve been following.”

“I’m excited to be a Chicago Bear. I can’t wait to start this journey.”

***

Quick hitters

Favorite players - Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday
Playlist before games - Meek Mill and Future
Favorite movies - Four Brothers and Shooter. He likes Mark Wahlberg a lot even his work in the latest Transformers series.
Favorite TV shows - Big Bang Theory and Modern Family
Favorite hobby – Bowling (212 is his highest score)
Nickname - "Buck"

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