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The Bears need a kicker — and Cole Tracy is the most prolific in NCAA history

LSU's Cole Tracy is carried off the field after beating Auburn last year. | Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS — There were times when Cole Tracy could identify each voice that cheered him as he ran onto the field — his mom, a roommate, a friend.

Assumption College, a Division II school in Worcester, Massachusetts, can pack more than 2,000 fans into its cleverly named Multi-Sport Stadium, though it technically holds only 1,200. Other times, the crowd was limited to friends and family.

When he transferred to LSU after three seasons, the kicker tried to tell himself the next stop in his college career wouldn’t be that different. Tracy joked that it wasn’t until he made his first kick for LSU — a 43-yarder inside AT&T Stadium, the home of the Cowboys — that he actually believed his own line.

This week, the Bears listed the traits they want in a replacement for Cody Parkey: a strong leg to cut through wind gusts and an even stronger mental makeup.

Tracy doesn’t have the strongest leg in the draft — LSU had someone else handle kickoffs — but his accuracy is off the charts. He has 97 career field goals and his 502 total points are the most by a kicker in NCAA history. His 29 field goals last year were an LSU record, and his 68 set Assumption’s career mark. In 2017, he won the Fred Mitchell Award, which honors the nation’s best small-college kicker and is named for the Chicago sportswriter.

Asked about his leg strength, Tracy pointed back to Assumption, which had no indoor practice facility to shield its players from the New England elements.

“I feel like I have plenty of experience playing in colder-weather games,” he said Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “A lot of it’s kind of just showing what you can do on the field, but also them going back and looking at the tapes.”

Marc Monks, Assumption’s former starting quarterback, was impressed by his friend’s transition to major college football.

“Under pressure. Biggest stage. Top-10 team. National spotlight,” Monks said. “It speaks a lot of him and his preparation that goes into it. He keeps his blinders on.”

The Southern California native went to Assumption because he wanted to go where he was wanted, he said. Because he redshirted as a freshman, Tracy was allowed to leave as a graduate transfer. He chose LSU for the experience of playing in front of a capacity crowd of 102,321 — or 100,000 more fans than his previous home games.

“Everybody kind of always thinks it was about [the draft]. It was never about this,” said Tracy, who’s being mentored by Pro Football Hall of Famer Morten Andersen. “I knew what would come from this, from having a good year at LSU. You kind of have that big stage. But it was kind of just all about the experience. It was all about the journey and the last few years from me, and something I always wanted to do.”

One of the other three kickers at the Combine, Oklahoma’s Austin Seibert said he knows what it takes to kick in Chicago. He grew up in Belleville. The pressure is similar to what he experienced with the Sooners — “Big fan base, brutal fan base, really good fan base at the same time,” he said — though the weather is colder.

“When you kick in this bad weather that Chicago gets — the snow, the rain, the wind off the lake — that only makes me better as a kicker,” he said. “So I’m not opposed to that at all. I think it’s a challenge. Let’s see how good we can be out there, like Robbie Gould, who kicked [11] years in Chicago or whatever it was, and now he’s missed three field goals in three years.”

Seibert punted and kicked for the Sooners, but said his leg feels stronger since he stopped doing the former a few months ago.

Seibert said he still looks up to Parkey. He pointed out that Parkey was 3-for-3 in the playoff game against the Eagles before double-doinking the potential game-winner.

Had he not done that, maybe the Bears wouldn’t have spoken to all three kickers at the combine.

“It’s unfortunate,” Seibert said. “But then again, that’s what happens. It’s a tough

situation.”

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