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John DeShazier: Ryan Pace developing the 'Chicago way' with the Bears

Former Saints personnel executive making changes as Bears GM

Phoenix – Ryan Pace hit the ground running.

He didn't have much choice, actually. When he left the New Orleans Saints after 14 years, the last two as director of player personnel, to become Chicago Bears general manager Jan. 8, there was work to be done.

Immediately.

"I took the job and within 15 minutes I was interviewing head coaching candidates," Pace said Tuesday from the NFL Meetings at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. "It was fast but I knew that when Coach (John) Fox became available (after parting with Denver), for me that was kind of a game-changer. Just the qualities he possesses.

"We know a lot of the same people, (Saints Coach) Sean Payton being one, so we were fortunate to get him. He brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the work place."

It'll be a task for Fox – or anyone in Chicago – to keep up with Pace, the league's youngest general manager (37), who, according to Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis, was ready for the job upgrade.

First, Pace is a physical specimen, appearing to be even more fit than when he was a senior defensive end at Eastern Illinois and checked in a 6 feet 3, 239 pounds. Second, he worked his way up the ladder at what amounts to warp speed; when he first was hired in 2001, he was an assistant for gameday operations and training camp.

By 2004 he was a pro scout and from there, he was director of pro scouting for six years before becoming director of player personnel.

"(Loomis) did a good job preparing me," Pace said. "You're learning on the fly, but I can still lean on him for advice. He's prepared me a lot over the years, so it's been pretty much what I expected. I knew there'd be a jumping off point and I've been going through that.

"I got some good people I work with there too, (Bears president and CEO) Ted Phillips and Coach Fox. But I still lean on Mickey, I'll give Mickey occasional phone calls, (but) I know he's been busy too. But I'll call him and Sean and (former Giants general manager) Ernie Accorsi, who became a friend through this process.

"What's good in this business is you have a lot of relationships with people who have been in the business for a long time, and I think it'd be smart of me to lean on those guys. As a young GM, I can lean on their experiences."

What they couldn't prepare Pace for, was the limelight.

While the Saints staff and league insiders were aware of his contributions, and the Saints often publicly lauded him for them, Pace wasn't often in front of cameras and recorders.

"We kind of joke about it," he said, laughing. "Coaches kind of get acclimated to the media over time as coordinators, but in scouting, you're really behind the scenes – (people) sliding (you) food under the door in a dark room.

"Then all of a sudden that door opens, and you're out front. That's been a learning experience, but it's been good."

It's been a rush, but one that Pace was prepared for and the parts that he may have been unfamiliar with, he has shown that he can acclimate to.

"The first two months have been kind of a whirlwind," he said. "It's been like one continuous day, but it's been good. Busy, but good.

"I think the smartest thing to do is just take a little bit of everywhere we've been and combine it all. So John's bringing things from Denver and I'm bringing things from New Orleans and it's kind of becoming the Chicago way. That's how it's been so far."

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