LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Bears on Monday signed fifth-round draft pick Corey Graham, a cornerback from New Hampshire, to a four-year contract. Terms were not disclosed.Graham is the third of the Bears’ nine draft picks to come to terms, following third-round running back Garrett Wolfe and fifth-round safety Kevin Payne.
Corey Graham became the first New Hampshire player selected in the draft since the Bears chose Jerry Azumah in 1999.
“It’s a great feeling,” Graham said. “Getting drafted by the Bears was great for me, and to sign my contract was exciting. Getting a deal done and not having to worry about that, now I can focus on playing football.”
Graham, who possesses good speed and athleticism, did not participate in the rookie or full-squad minicamps because he is recovering from a broken fibula he sustained in the seventh game of his senior season. But he is expected to be 100 percent by the start of training camp.
The 6-foot, 195-pounder has excellent ball skills and hands and played a lot of zone coverage at New Hampshire, the same school that produced former Bears cornerback Jerry Azumah.
“In our defense you have to play press, you have to play off, you have to be able to get up there as a cover-two corner and jam,” defensive coordinator Bob Babich said after the draft. “In evaluating the tape on him, we thought that he showed all those things.
“The thing that we really like about Corey is that he’s athletic and we think that he’s going to do nothing but get better. He’s been well-coached at his school, but I think competing against our guys, he’s going to get much better and continue to grow. We think he has untapped talent.”
Graham started all 42 games he appeared in at New Hampshire, registering 302 tackles, 12 interceptions, 31 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He also excelled as a return specialist and a gunner in college and will compete for a job on special teams with the Bears.
The 21-year-old signed his contract in a Halas Hall conference room that is adorned with photos of Hall of Famers such as Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers inking their contracts with the Bears.
“It was very exciting knowing that those guys went through that and I had the opportunity to do the same thing,” Graham said. “It just shows how far I’ve come and the opportunity that’s in front of me.”
Graham signed his contract two days after graduating from college.
“It’s been a great week, I’ll say that,” he said.
Growing up in Buffalo, Graham was an ardent Bills fan.
“We used to go to the games all the time,” he said. “It was a big thing that we did together as a family. They were huge Bills fans and I grew up watching the Bills, so I was a Bills fan myself.”
The Bills teams that Graham cheered for featured new Bears teammate Ruben Brown, a veteran offensive lineman who went to eight straight Pro Bowls while playing in Buffalo.
“I haven’t had the opportunity to meet Ruben Brown yet,” Graham said. “I watched Ruben Brown (from the stands). It was good seeing him out there. I guess I’ll get a chance to talk to him and see what he’s like in person.”