"A guy I feel like we've been talking about internally for a long time," Pace said. "A little bit undersized but extremely athletic. Really twitchy. Good ball skills. A guy we've liked for a long time internally and excited to get him at that point.
"Competitiveness just jumps off the tape when you're watching Duke Shelley."
To earn his way to Chicago, Shelley stood on an island against bigger receivers in a pass-heavy conference in the Big 12, starting four years and posting eight interceptions, including three last season. Pace recognized the ability of Shelley to hold his own as an undersized outside cornerback and believes those traits will translate well as the Bears plan to play him at the inside nickel position.
"I’m a competitor," Shelley said by teleconference with reporters. "I’m going to compete every play. I don’t like balls getting caught on me -- I don’t care if it’s one yard or five. I like competing. I like to compete all the time, and that’s what I’m going to do. I know I’m going to compete as long as I can, and it’s going to pay off."
Thirty-three players were drafted this past weekend who weren't among the 337 invited to the NFL Combine. The Bears selected three of those 33 -- Shelley and then running back Kerrith Whyte Jr. and cornerback Stephen Denmark in the seventh round. The field for the Combine is chosen by teams' front offices -- in other words, they're the players whom NFL executives want to see perform.
Instead, Shelley was invited to Halas Hall on a top-30 visit with the Bears, a private indication to him of the team's significant interest.
"I loved everything about the team," Shelley said. "I’m just ready to come in and get to work."
The Bears signed 30-year-old Buster Skrine this offseason to play nickel cornerback. Even after that, they were expected to draft a cornerback -- and they ended up taking two in Shelley and the 6-foot-3 Denmark. The Bears hope Shelley is ready for NFL competition quickly, as they know Denmark, a former receiver, is more of a project.
Shelley may not have been high on many other draft boards, but the Pace-led Bears have had success finding talented players and contributors deep in the draft.
Now, they hope Shelley is their latest late-round find.
"He’s so scrappy," Pace said. "If it’s completed, it’s earned. He’s very sticky in coverage. He’s highly, highly competitive. He’s just very athletic. When you look at his PBUs and his interceptions, they’re coming in a very athletic manner. It’s not gimmes. Everything is earned."