Matt Slauson has never played alongside someone as athletically freakish as Vladmir Ducasse. Maybe Kyle Long, the man whose right guard spot Ducasse inherited Sunday after a much-publicized move to right tackle. But that’s it.
Slauson, who played alongside the Bears’ 6-5, 325-pounder on the Jets from 2010-12, has seen him grow up.
“English is his second language and football is a whole another language,” Slauson said. “He’s a lot more comfortable now, playing well.”
Ducasse didn’t see a football until high school. He was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. His mother died when he was 5. At 14, and with his family seeking a better life for him, he was sent to Stamford, Conn., to live with his brother, aunt and uncle.
He’d grown up playing soccer, and wanted to join the high school basketball team, until two football captains lobbied him to play. He attended one practice and “wasn’t really too interested,” he said, but eventually joined the team. Already 275 pounds, he didn’t know how to put on pads. He still remembers the first game he ever watched on television — one of the great Rose Bowls ever, between Texas and USC.
Ducasse started on varsity his junior season. By the time he was a senior, though, he’d grown accustomed to watching college game film provided in coach Kevin Jones’ trailer.
Attending college at then-Div. I-AA UMass was a wakeup call, too — “I wasn’t the biggest guy,” he said — but he grew into a top lineman prospect.
He shined at the NFL Scouting Combine, just days after the 2010 Haiti earthquake that killed around a quarter of a million people. After a day in the dark, Ducasse found out his family and friends were safe.
“For some reason,” he said, “I just felt like focusing on what was in front of me.”
Ducasse is doing the same in his new starting role.
He struggled in the season opener Sunday, playing between Long and Will Montgomery.
The 27-year-old — signed by the Bears in March after starting six games in his lone Vikings season — committed two penalties and allowed three quarterback hurries Sunday. He’ll have to improve in the coming weeks to stave off newcomer Patrick Omameh.
Share Events on The CubeWhile Ducasse feels comfortable in the offensive line meeting room — “It makes it a lot easier when everyone has the same goal in mind,” he said — his teammates only expect the line’s communication to improve.
“Hopefully you get to the point where you take enough reps together that you’re communicating with a series of grunts and head bobs,” left tackle Jermon Bushrod said.
That will take on a new importance against the Cardinals, who allowed the fewest rushing yards of any Week 1 team and sacked the Saints’ Drew Brees twice.
Describing his opponent, Ducasse referenced something he knows best — watching film as a young player, learning the game.
”That D-line, they know how to play football,” Ducasse said. “If I’m a young guy, if I’m a D-lineman, I would watch the Cardinals.”