For Micah Dew-Treadway and a handful of other hometown kids, the chance to play for the Chicago Bears will be monumental – The Denver Post


There will be a moment Saturday morning, shortly after the Chicago Bears arrive at Soldier Field but well before kickoff, when Micah Dew-Treadway will make his way to the field for a moment of gratitude and reflection. He plans to take a few deep breaths and a long look around the stadium to appreciate the climb that has put him on this stage. He’s in the NFL as an undrafted rookie fighting for a roster spot on the team he grew up rooting for.

“I’ll take a few pictures, take some videos, soak that up pretty good,” Dew-Treadway said. “I’ll look up to my parents. But not too much. My mom’s going to be pretty emotional. And I’ll take that time to take it all in.”

And then? Well, then Dew-Treadway will flip a switch, understanding his four-month audition to become a long-term contributor to the Bears is about to intensify. His NFL preseason debut will come against the Kansas City Chiefs. And the 25-year-old defensive tackle plans to use whatever playing time he gets Saturday to prove to Bears coaches and front-office talent evaluators that he will be detailed, reliable and consistent, a 308-pound windup toy of effort.

This is simply his next moment.

“Let it rip,” he said. “Just let it rip.”

A lot of this is still so surreal, this opportunity for Dew-Treadway to live out a childhood fantasy. He grew up in Bolingbrook, became a star in high school, then committed to Notre Dame. He still has family throughout the area — in Bolingbrook, Evanston and on the city’s West and South sides. And he frequently thinks back to the ways the Bears ignited his football passion, watching Lovie Smith’s aggressive and opportunistic defenses tear opponents up when he was little.

In his early days at Notre Dame, Dew-Treadway said he proudly wore his No. 54 Bears jersey frequently. Or maybe more exactly, he wore it out.

“I rocked the Urlacher all the time,” he said.

So imagine the profound appreciation Dew-Treadway has had over the last three-plus months during defensive meetings at Halas Hall when, in the process of installing a new system, coach Matt Eberflus and coordinator Alan Williams have rolled through clips of those old Bears defenses and those games Dew-Treadway watched enthusiastically as a kid.

Back then, it was pure entertainment. “Watching Briggs and Urlacher run around was just different,” Dew-Treadway said. “It just was. Those were my two dudes. And I didn’t even really understand what was going on.”

Now, he zeros in on the old clips as classroom education, using a more sophisticated lens to watch the in-the-trenches contributors do their part.

“Here’s ‘Spice’ Adams with an inside move to get a (tackle for loss),” Dew-Treadway said. “Or here’s Israel Idonije coming off the edge with power to clutter the pocket. And here’s Urlacher coming off the edge, chasing the QB all the way around. Now it’s a strip fumble. Here comes Briggs. Now they’ve got the ball and they’re taking off.

“It’s like. ‘Wow! This is crazy! This is ridiculous!’ And now I really get what’s going on and what’s making it all happen.”

Dew-Treadway also gets his chance to join that fraternity.

“Yeah, man,” he said. “This is fun.”

‘Something I’ll never forget’

Dew-Treadway won’t be alone Saturday in feeling the rush of being a hometown kid playing a game at Soldier Field as a Chicago Bear. There’s eighth-year veteran James O’Shaughnessy, who played his high school ball at Naperville North and in college at Illinois State. After previous stints with the Chiefs, New England Patriots and Jacksonville Jaguars, O’Shaughnessy signed a one-year contract with the Bears in April.

Rookie offensive lineman Doug Kramer, a product of Hinsdale Central High School and the University of Illinois, was drafted in the seventh round in April. By his beloved Bears. “Dream come true for sure,” he said on draft weekend. “This means the world to me and my family.”

Don’t forget about Michael Schofield either. Even with seven seasons and 102 games of NFL experience under his belt, Schofield remains ecstatic to take this personally gratifying step in his football journey.

Of all his workdays since 2014, none pushed him through a nostalgic waterfall like July 26, when he turned right onto Football Drive in Lake Forest and rolled through the front gates as a new employee of his hometown team. “That was something special I’ll never forget,” Schofield said. “Pretty cool pulling up to Halas Hall for the first time as a Bear.”

Another first awaits him Saturday — in that landmark stadium just east of DuSable Lake Shore Drive. Preseason or not, Schofield knows the day will feel special.

“It’ll be my first time putting on a Bear jersey,” he said.

Game jersey, that is.

Schofield grew up in Orland Park, went to Sandburg High School and dreamed of becoming a Bears receiver. The first jersey he owned was a Marty Booker — No. 86.

“I used to be able to catch,” Schofield said, “and then I put on a lot of weight. So that changed. Not many people grow up wanting to be linemen. They all want to start off scoring touchdowns.”

At this stage, playing right guard for the Bears will have to suffice.

Plus, the size and energy of Schofield’s game-day cheering section promises to be larger in 2022 than ever before.

“My family’s big tailgaters,” Schofield said. “They’ll do that right for sure.”

‘Allow yourself that moment’

Rookie linebacker Jack Sanborn, from Deer Park and Lake Zurich High School, also will soak in Saturday’s experience.

The first Bears game Sanborn paid attention to was Super Bowl XLI. He was 6 then, a first-grader just starting to understand the football team in navy and orange awakened something in those close to him.

“It was a bigger day,” Sanborn said. “You could tell. I could feel it from my whole family. That was really my first moment of watching NFL football.”

Sanborn is readying for his first moment of playing NFL football, which will prompt a few deeper thoughts Saturday when he walks onto the Soldier Field grass pregame.

“You have to reflect,” Sanborn said, “even if it’s just for a second. Be where your feet are and allow yourself that moment.”

With that fulfillment, however, Sanborn won’t lose sight of the stakes. He’s fighting for a job, grinding to earn the trust of the new coaching staff. That’s why Sanborn believes he’ll feel far more urgency than nostalgia for the rest of this month.

“Everything matters. Everything you do,” he said. “It’s not only what you do on the field but inside the building and away from the building. A lot goes into this. So far, it’s been enjoyable for me. It’s been fun. But eyes are on you. So you have to perform.”

Once the proud owner of Urlacher and Devin Hester jerseys, Sanborn will don No. 57 on game day with his surname sewn on the back between the sleeves with the GSH logo. In the stadium where he watched the Bears down the Detroit Lions 19-14 in 2010 thanks to Calvin Johnson’s inability to complete the process of a 25-yard touchdown catch, Sanborn will be in attack mode against the Chiefs.

“The moment won’t be too big for me,” he said. “I’ll be calm and cool headed and ready. … Sure there’s pressure. At the same time, I’m part of the Chicago Bears right now. This is something I’ve always dreamed of. So you better enjoy the moment.”

‘I miss this feeling. Chicago. My city.’

Dew-Treadway is in a similar mindset, beyond grateful for where his long and winding path to the NFL ultimately led him. Due to redshirt seasons, injuries and an NCAA-gifted extra year of eligibility in 2021 because of COVID-19, Dew-Treadway’s college career spanned seven years: four at Notre Dame, three at Minnesota.

In April, Dew-Treadway hoped to be drafted and have the first stage of his pro football trek mapped out for him. Then seven rounds and 262 picks passed without his name being called, and he needed something — anything — to alleviate that sting.

It came in the form of a call and a contract offer from the Bears.

Dew-Treadway still remembers the message from Bears defensive line coach Travis Smith. “He reminded me that I should be pissed off that things didn’t go the way I maybe projected them to go,” Dew-Treadway said. “That reminder gave me that chippy mood and the push to get better and do things people thought I couldn’t do. … But then he was also straightforward, just like ‘Look, you’ve now got the best opportunity you’ve ever had in your life. And you get to do this at home.’ In that moment, I immediately shifted my mind. Just like, ‘I’m about to do this.’ ”

Consider that Dew-Treadway’s first professional “Bear Down” moment.

Perhaps it’s sacrilege for Dew-Treadway to mention this. But he does anyway. He attended the Bears’ January 2019 playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles — the 16-15 loss most of Chicago remembers with extreme nausea as “The Double Doink” game — and considers it “the greatest football game I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Wait, Micah … what?!?!

“You’ve got to understand,” he said. “I was watching from the 50-yard-line. And I’m a defensive lineman. I’m watching the line play the entire game. Fletcher Cox on the bull rush. Akiem Hicks wrecking things. Khalil (Mack) coming off the edge. That game was crazy for me.”

End result be darned.

To be fair, Dew-Treadway will never forget the nonstop buzz that radiated for hours before Cody Parkey lined up for his game-deciding 43-yard field-goal try.

“Electric,” he said. “You felt it the whole time. I was back from college for that game. And I was like, ‘Man, I miss this feeling. Chicago. My city.’ And that feeling, even within the fans, that if you asked any one of us to strap it up, we’d be going down there about to kill something too.”

On Saturday, Dew-Treadway will be back at that same stadium, only this time inside the action, on the Soldier Field grass and fighting to elevate his career.

With a Bears coaching staff looking to identify high-motor, maximum-effort contributors, Dew-Treadway believes he has what it takes to earn his keep. He also knows his ability to embrace the fun of this entire experience — he’s now a defender for the Chicago freaking Bears! — will provide so much needed fuel.

“Now,” he said, “it’s about letting it loose.”



Source link