In this handout photo from the Chicago Bears, Andy Fantuz signs his contract with the Bears. ((Chicago Bears))

The top pass catcher in the Canadian Football League is no longer a Saskatchewan Roughrider.

Andy Fantuz, 27, announced Friday he's signed an NFL contract with the Chicago Bears.

"It's a whole new avenue for my career," Fantuz said in a new release. "I'm excited to make that step and get the opportunity to try out for the Bears."

Fantuz, who grew up in Chatham, Ont., led the CFL in receiving last season and was named the league's outstanding Canadian.

The slotback has spent the last five seasons with the Roughriders and in 2010 racked up a career-high 87 passes, 1,380 yards and six touchdowns.

Fantuz, who told his Twitter followers last month that he had yet to sign a deal, confirmed in a tweet Friday that he's heading south.

"Hey everyone.. I just signed a contract with the Bears today. I want to thank everyone for all of your support!" the message said.


Saskatchewan's Andy Fantuz, right, was the first Canadian-born receiver to lead the CFL in receiving yards since 1995. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press) )

Fantuz has signed a "reserve/future" contract which applies to free agents for the next season. The terms, financial details or length of contract were not mentioned in the Bears news release.  

There had been speculation for months that Fantuz would make the jump to the NFL.

In recent weeks, the receiver had also been working out with the Minnesota Vikings, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cincinnati Bengals and the New England Patriots.

He was in the option year of his contract with the Riders and was coming up against a Feb. 14 deadline to decide.

A spokesman for the Roughriders said it's difficult to lose at top player, but the team wishes Fantuz the best in Chicago. "We knew this was a possibility and we will continue with our off-season plan to replace Andy,"  general manager Brendan Taman said in a news release. "We will monitor our options, both within the personnel we have, and with recruiting as we go forward."

Fantuz was well-liked in the community for his off-field activities as well as on. Last year, a hot seller in Regina was breakfast cereal called Fantuz Flakes — the proceeds of which went to charity.