Utah’s Nate Orchard matches Bears’ pass rush need

SHARE Utah’s Nate Orchard matches Bears’ pass rush need
SHARE Utah’s Nate Orchard matches Bears’ pass rush need

He arrived on campus as wide receiver Nate Fakahafua and left as defensive end Nate Orchard.

It all started with a visit with Utah coach Kyle Whittingham after his first week of practice as a freshman. The Utes had too many receivers and not enough pass rushers.

“He pulled me into his office and said if I put on 60 pounds, I could make it to the next level and do some big things,” Orchard said. “I took his word and I pushed hard.

“I’m the type of person that believes the coach, and what he’s preaching. He’s a man that has years of years under his belt and has coached guys into the NFL.”

The 190-pound wide receiver became a defensive end on the spot.

Four seasons and 36 starts later, as a 6-3, 250-pound senior, Orchard led the nation with 1.46 sacks per game finished second with 18.5 sacks.

As the Utes’ coach promised, he stamped his ticket to the next level.

The All-American will likely be picked in the second round of next week’s NFL Draft. He could fit the Bears as an outside linebacker, particularly if the team uses its first-round pick on a wide receiver.

Orchard said he could fit in either a 3-4 or a as a 4-3 end, though his thin frame might favor the former.

GM Ryan Pace said the Bears can never have too many edge rushers — particularly in a draft that features one of the best crops in years.

“It’s amazing to have a class with so many elite pass-rushers,” Orchard said. “You don’t often get that. But this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many teams to pick up on these guys and make the most of it.”

That the 22-year-old is on that list is amazing, and not just because of the position switch. At age 12, he asked his club basketball coach if he could move in with his family. He was living with his brother in Salt Lake City and didn’t want to move to California, saying he was afraid his family was so “unstable” that he’d never be able to play sports.

Dave and Katherine Orchard said yes, and eventual became his legal guardian.s

Before Orchard got married in 2013, he changed his last name from Fakahafua, to honor them. He named his daughter Katherine, too.

His wife and daughter are just as excited for draft day as he is.

“I wouldn’t want any other people by my side than my wife and my little girl,” he said. “It’s been a fun process.”

Email:pfinley@suntimes.com

Twitter: @patrickfinley

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