NR alum signs with Chicago Bears

Published 10:35 pm Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Former Hampton University and Nansemond River offensive lineman Dennis Conley was signed as a free agent by the Chicago Bears on Monday.

Conley, who is listed at 6 foot 4 and 303 pounds and played mostly as a guard for the Pirates during his four years at Hampton, was a first-team All-MEAC (Mid Eastern Athletic Conference) lineman in his junior and senior seasons.

The Bears were interested in Conley and flew him to Chicago before the draft for an interview in early April.


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Knowing the Bears were interested in signing him as a free agent, unlike many college football players, Conley was actually relieved when his name wasn’t called in the final round or two of the NFL Draft on Saturday.

“When you get to the later rounds, sometimes a guy will get drafted into a situation that’s not great as far as his chances of making the team,” he said.

“I knew (the Bears) had a big interest in me, and they’re giving me an excellent chance to make the team.”

In seven games this past season, Conley was part of an offensive line that helped the Pirates average 106.4 rushing yards per game. In 2007, Conley played all 11 games for the Pirates and helped the team average 133.4 rushing yards per game. Hampton was first in the MEAC in scoring offense and passing offense in Conley’s junior season.

At Nansemond River, for head coach Brian Maus, Conley was a tight end. He also was a four-year letterman on the basketball team and a three-year letterman on the baseball team.

Conley said he called and talked with Maus and Nansemond River principal Thomas McLemore after signing with the Bears.

Since the college season wrapped up in November, Conley’s been working out with a group of former and current players in Atlanta. That group includes former NFL offensive lineman Tony Jones.

Jones played 13 seasons with the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos, including on Denver’s Super Bowl championship teams in 1997-98 and 1998-99. Jones was an undrafted free agent from Western Carolina, a Division I-AA college (now the Football Championship Subdivision) like Hampton.

“He was an undrafted free agent, but he ended up being one of the top tackles of his time,” Conley said. “I want to have the same success he had.”

As a part of the training in Atlanta, Conley has been working out against some of the top Division I-A defensive linemen. That additional work has proven to him that he can make the step up to the pros.

“When I’m matching up against the big-school guys, I see how I look, and I don’t see any difference. I’m confident in my ability, but I’m also my own hardest critic, which is something that really helps me,” he said.

Conley was one of nine undrafted players signed by the Bears on Monday following the weekend’s NFL draft.