Thursday, January 11, 2018

Former Bears rave about team’s new line coach Harry Hiestand

Harry Hiestand working with the Bears in 2006. (Chicago Tribune)

By Brad Biggs
January 11, 2018

When Harry Hiestand arrived as the Bears offensive line coach in 2005, there was a brief period of adjustment for his players.

A career college assistant, Hiestand’s intensity, especially on the practice field wasn’t what players he inherited were accustomed to as professionals. But it didn’t take long for them to embrace Hiestand’s direction, which helped them finish eighth in the league in rushing that season despite playing with rookie quarterback Kyle Orton and routinely facing eight-man fronts.

New coach Matt Nagy made a splash with his first hire Wednesday when he lured Hiestand, 59, away from Notre Dame, setting up the current group of linemen for an adjustment of their own.

“From the moment you walked into his meetings, you knew he was serious,” former guard/center Roberto Garza said. “He had a plan that you were going to buy into it and a lot of guys, we weren’t ready for that. But once you go on the field with Harry and see what he has to offer, it’s hard not to fight for this guy every single play. He is a guy you can trust. He is going to fight for his offensive linemen and you will go to bat for him every day because he is going to have your back and you are going to have his.”

Former All-Pro center Olin Kreutz didn’t hesitate in declaring Hiestand the best position coach he played for in his 13-year career.

“He gets the most out of his guys,” Kreutz said.
“He totally buys into you, which makes you totally buy into him. He’s all about the offensive line and he has no other agenda. He just wants to help you and help the team win.
“Harry doesn’t care about moving up the ladder or getting credit for anything. His total focus is on the offensive line and the details that go with that. Put him in a room and just let him coach offensive line football and that’s heaven for him.”

Hiestand served as the Bears offensive line coach from 2005 through 2009 under offensive coordinator Ron Turner, for whom he had been an assistant at Illinois the previous eight seasons. He followed with a successful run at Tennessee and in South Bend, Ind. The Irish won the Joe Moore Award last month for the premier offensive front in college football and the Irish have had four linemen drafted in the top three rounds of the NFL draft since 2013 and are expected to have guard Quenton Nelson and tackle Mike McGlinchey selected in the first round in April.

Hiestand inherits a line with four likely returning starters in tackles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie, guard Kyle Long and center/guard Cody Whitehair. The team needs to make a decision on the 2018 option for guard Josh Sitton. His contract will pay him $8 million this season if the team executes the option, which must be done between Feb. 9 and March 9, five days before the start of the new league year.

The current players can get a scouting report on Hiestand from retired guys.

“Harry doesn’t leave any stone unturned,” Garza said. “He puts a game plan together for you to execute and you work it every single day. There is nothing fancy about it. … It’s about coming off the ball. Harry is an intense guy … (and) says a lot about a guy who comes to work every day ready to do whatever is necessary to get his linemen ready. (He) doesn’t stop. He gives you everything you need and he’s going to demand it from you. It’s up to you if you take the challenge or not.”

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