The Bears’ 1963 NFL championship team featured four of the best seventh-round picks in franchise history in linebacker Joe Fortunato (1952), defensive back J.C. Caroline (1956), center Mike Pyle (1961) and defensive end Ed O’Bradovich (1962).
Fortunato was voted to five Pro Bowls in 12 seasons with the Bears from 1955-66. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1950s and selected as one of the top 300 players in NFL history. An outside linebacker, the Mississippi State product recorded 16 interceptions and 22 fumble recoveries during his career.
Caroline played 10 seasons with the Bears from 1956-65. He had 24 career interceptions, tied for eighth in franchise history with Doug Buffone. The Illinois product was voted to the Pro Bowl in his first season with the Bears in 1956 after leading the team with six interceptions. Caroline spent one season in the CFL before joining the Bears.
Pyle, a Chicago area native who attended New Trier High School, played his entire nine-year NFL career with his hometown team from 1961-69. Pyle anchored the Bears offensive line and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 1963. After his retirement, he hosted Bears pre- and post-game radio shows as well as “The Mike Ditka Show” when Ditka was head coach.
Known by younger generations as a fiery Bears post-game radio host, O’Bradovich displayed that same temperament on the field for 10 seasons from 1962-71. He made a key play in the 1963 NFL title game against the Giants, intercepting a Y.A. Tittle pass and returning it 10 yards to the New York 14 to set up the winning touchdown. Like Pyle, O’Bradovich was a local product who attended Proviso East High School and the University of Illinois.
Another seventh-round pick who developed into a star was chosen by the Bears in 1965. Receiver Dick Gordon played seven seasons in Chicago from 1965-71 and ranks 11th on the team’s all-time receiving list with 3,550 yards and 13th with 238 receptions. The last Bears player to lead the NFL in receptions with 71 in 1970, Gordon was voted to back-to-back Pro Bowls in 1970-71.
A key member of the current Bears blossomed after being selected in the seventh round of the 2014 draft from Boise State. Left tackle Charles Leno Jr. was voted to his first Pro Bowl last year and has made 61 straight starts, dating back to Week 4 of the 2015 season when he was promoted to the No. 1 offense.