Hailing from Sandburg High School in southwest suburban Orland Park automatically made Indiana guard Dan Feeney’s Halas Hall meeting a special experience.
And then he saw running back Jordan Howard’s jersey encased in glass.
“That was cool for me, obviously, being a Chicago kid and blocking for him last year [at Indiana],” Feeney said of the Bears’ local pro day. “That cool factor was through the roof just walking through all the facilities.”
It might not be in Chicago, but Feeney will have an NFL home soon enough. He’s widely considered one of the top guards in the draft. Feeney could be drafted as high as the tail end of the first round Thursday.
Feeney, who’s 6-4, 305 pounds, also continues a local tradition. He and LSU center Ethan Pocic, a likely Day 2 draft pick, are the next in line when it comes to high-caliber offensive linemen from the Chicago area.
Recent draftees who started during the 2016 season include Colts tackle Anthony Castonzo (Lake Zurich), Texans guard Jeff Allen (King), Packers tackle Bryan Bulaga (Marian Central), Chiefs guard/center Zach Fulton (Homewood-Flossmoor), Lions guard Laken Tomlinson (Lane), Lions center/guard Graham Glasgow (Marmion), Titans tackle Dennis Kelly (Marian Catholic) and Broncos tackle Michael Schofield (Sandburg).
The Chargers drafted guard/center Chris Watt (Glenbard West) in the third round in 2014, but he missed all of last season because of knee surgery.
“There is something in the water out here,” Feeney said. “We’re growing them big. It’s cool. It shows the competition that’s out here. You got a lot of Division I linemen coming out and a lot of them are from the Chicagoland area. That’s awesome publicity for the city. It’s an awesome competition level.”
Schofield, of course, stands out to Feeney because he’s also from Sandburg. They’ve gotten to know each other through offensive line coach Greg Frey, who coached Feeney at Indiana and Schofield at Michigan.
“I’m excited to put Orland Park on the map again,” Feeney said.
He certainly has the potential to do that.
Feeney wasn’t the most heralded college prospect from the area. Pocic, who played Feeney in high school at Lemont, had scholarship offers from powerhouses across the country. Feeney’s old Rivals.com profile lists only three offers: Indiana, Illinois and Western Michigan.
“I wanted to raise the standard of Indiana football,” Feeney said.
In a sense, Feeney did that by developing into a coveted NFL prospect. He was a first-team Big Ten selection in his last two seasons. Last year, he was a first-team All-American.
The interest Feeney has received from NFL teams is significant. He’s considered a plug-and-play player.
According to Pro Football Focus’ college analysis, Feeney allowed only two sacks, four hits and 19 hurries on 1,239 pass blocks over his last three seasons. He was penalized a mere 10 times those years, too.
“Dan is a very consistent player [and] has a ton of experience at Indiana,” former Browns general manager Phil Savage said.
“He was really productive [at the Senior Bowl] in terms of his pass protection and his run blocking.”
Last season, Feeney displayed some versatility when asked to play tackle at times because of injuries.
“I had to do it to help the team out,” Feeney said.
In other words, Feeney has the right mentality — one that teams look for up front. He’s also a rugged, rough-and-tumble type. Bears guard Kyle Long has those qualities, too.
Being a guard isn’t a “sexy position,” Feeney said, but he loves it.
“A lot goes into it to not be recognized,” Feeney said, “but I’m all good with that as long as my quarterback is safe and my running back is making good runs. That’s all I care about.”
Howard could vouch for him.
Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.