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We are all Matt Blanchard, minus the Bears uniform

August 20, 2012|By Matt Lindner | For RedEye

Preseason football generally is about as riveting as watching paint dry.

Yet on Saturday, I found myself glued to the final two minutes of the Bears' preseason contest as if it were the Super Bowl as a fellow Lake Zurich High School alum was making headlines.

Meaningless football suddenly became metaphorical.

Bears fourth-string quarterback Matt Blanchard grew up across town from me and graduated from the same bucolic suburban high school in 2007 as I had seven years prior. He came on in the two-minute drill in relief of veteran Josh McCown specifically so Lovie Smith could see if he could prove himself under pressure.

He succeeded.

The drive unfolded in a fashion that was as methodical as it was efficient. The newfound pride of Lake Zurich lived out every Bears fan's wildest dreams at Soldier Field, consistently finding open receivers and doing what he had to to put Robbie Gould in position to win the game.

You know the rest. Gould's field goal cleared the uprights and the Bears left with a two-point win. Yeah, it was "just" the preseason, but Blanchard can forever tell his kids about the time he led the Bears to victory.

He's about as likely to see the field during the regular season as you or I. With Jay Cutler and established veterans Jason Campbell and Josh McCown ahead of him on the depth chart, Blanchard's likely to spend the 2012 season on the Bears' practice squad.

And yet out of any NFL player, he's probably the easiest to relate to. He signed as an undrafted free agent out of Wisconsin-Whitewater, with nothing promised and even less guaranteed. Now he's just another young professional in Chicago trying to keep his job and make his mark in the city.

Aren't we all?

You and I will never be Jay Cutler, first-round draft picks who squire swooning celebrities and make more money than a human being ever should to play a child's game. That much is a certainty.

But on some level, we are all Matt Blanchard.

Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.

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