Maybe it was because Arlington Hambright played only six games as a college junior. Or perhaps it was because he’d been a member of three teams in a four-season span — Garden City (Kansas) Community College, Oklahoma State and, as a senior, Colorado.
Still, it surprises Buffaloes offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini that Hambright wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine this winter.
“Just given his size and how athletic he is — obviously, making the transition from Oklahoma State to Colorado, maybe something got lost in the transition,” Chiaverini said. “He was definitely worthy.”
The Bears backed that up when they drafted the 6-5, 300-pound offensive lineman in the seventh round last month.
Hambright started 11 games at left tackle last year, but he could play guard in the NFL, too. He’ll need that versatility to make the team. One thing he already has is athleticism. At Colorado’s pro day on March 11, he ran a 4.97-second 40-yard dash that would have ranked fourth among linemen at the NFL Combine. His 29 bench press reps would have been sixth, while his 9-foot, 1-inch broad jump would have ranked 14th.
Had Hambright, who turned 24 in January, posted those numbers at the combine, he wouldn’t have been available in the seventh round, when the Bears took him as this year’s 226th player — and 22nd tackle.
“He definitely allowed us to be really good in the outside zone game world, better in the screen game world, because we’re able to get him out on screens,” Chiaverini said. “And he’s so athletic in space that he’s able to eat up linebackers and safeties and corners.”
The Buffaloes credited him with 68 knockdown blocks.
“I played with a bunch of guys in the NFL, and he’s as athletic as anybody that I played with,” Chiaverini said. “So I think that will give him a chance to stick.”
Sticking around would be a new experience for Hambright, who played high school football in Bellville, Michigan, before joining Garden City in 2015. The next year, the Broncbusters went 11-0 and won the National Junior College Athletic Association national title.
Hambright redshirted at Oklahoma State in 2017, then started the first five games of 2018 before hurting his ankle. After graduating in 2018, he transferred to play his final season at Colorado, which was then led by former Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker.
“All three different places, I learned different things,” Hambright said last month. “Garden City Junior College, my freshman year, I just knew that I had to grow up. I matured a lot there. Then, at Oklahoma State I just got used to the next level, the Power 5 level. . . . And then Colorado, I learned a lot from Coach Tucker and my offensive line coach.”
The Bears are betting that new offensive line coach Juan Castillo will be influential in developing Hambright and fellow seventh-round offensive lineman Lachavious Simmons. Both general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy have raved about Castillo since he took over in January — though he’s been unable to coach a single player on the field because of the coronavirus.
Hambright already has one connection in Chicago. Chiaverini’s twin brother, Ryan, cohosts “Windy City Live” on ABC7. The brothers have laughed about how Hambright is going from one of their cities to the other.
Darrin Chiaverini, who spent four years as an NFL receiver, cautions against Hambright using the combine snub as motivation. He knows Hambright will find other ways to push himself.
“You might be able to do that on the front end,” he said. “But going through NFL training camps — they’re long. It’s hot. You’re going to be tired and sore. At the end of the day, it’s got to come from inside. I don’t think it can be a lot of external motivation. It’s got to be more internal motivation. . . .
“The biggest advice I’d give him is to get in your playbook — and be your line coach’s best friend.”