MOBILE, Ala. — So you're saying the Chicago Bears need a kicker, eh?
Well, the Senior Bowl might be one of the first places they can look for Cody Parkey's assumed replacement, and there are two college kickers here trying to open eyes prior to the 2019 NFL draft.
The first is Oklahoma's Austin Seibert, the NCAA's all-time leading scorer, who grew up in Belleville, Ill. We didn't get a chance to talk to him after Tuesday's South Team practice but we hope to catch up to him later in the week.
The other is quite a story.
LSU's Cole Tracy was actually Assumption College's Cole Tracy prior to this past season. The Division-II school in Worcester, Mass. is actually a pretty strong program for its level, but it's not exactly known as a breeding ground for pro prospects. There has been exactly one NFL player from Assumption: New York Giants TE Scott Simonson. (Bears fans might remember him making a few catches in the overtime loss to the Giants this season.)
But that's where Tracy started his college career, and he was brilliant there before making the grad-transfer move to Baton Rouge. At Assumption, Tracy made 97 of his 117 field-goal attempts (82.9 percent) for his career, and he was even better in 2017, making 27-of-29 tries with both of his misses from beyond 40 yards.
That led to LSU offering him to make the almost-unheard-of jump to the SEC, and he didn't disappoint in his only season there in 2018. Tracy made 29-of-33 FG tries with a long of 53, earning first-team SEC honors and being named a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation's best kicker.
Tracy's first day at the Senior Bowl was up and down, with two misses to the left in the 47- to 49-yard range with a nice little right-to-left breeze cutting across the field and some wet conditions at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. But Tracy also rebounded with a few longer kicks before his final try from 53 yards fell a bit short.
Asked if he had watched the Bears-Eagles playoff game where Parkey missed the potential game-winning kick, Tracy said: "Absolutely. It's tough when you see a guy in a spot like that. You need to clear your mind and go back to what works. Get back to your fundamentals and find that groove again."
Tracy told PFW he met with the Bears briefly down here and expects to hear more from them throughout the draft process. His career arc might be similar to that of Buffalo Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka, who made the jump from similarly tiny Middlebury College to North Carolina State before embarking on what has been an 11-year NFL career (and counting) mostly with the Seahawks and Bills.
Is Tracy the next Hauschka? We don't know. But he might be someone the Bears pay pretty close attention to as they attempt to solve what has been a problem position the past two seasons.
"Man, I'd love to kick there," he told us. "I've shown I can kick in all kinds of weather, all different conditions, big stadiums, small ones, ones with wind, whatever."
And as for his up-and-down first day here?
"I am going to show you [Wednesday] what I really can do," he said. "I was disappointed I missed a few, but I know I am going to bounce back the next try."
— Eric Edholm