There are 53 men on the Bears' active roster, plus another eight on the practice squad, and everyone is with the team for a reason. Even the ones you haven't heard of.
Until last week, that may have included Sherrick McManis. A third-year cornerback from Northwestern, McManis has spent this season as a productive yet relatively anonymous special teams player. At 6 foot 1, 193 pounds, you might not even take notice if he walked past you at a restaurant.
But Bears fans took notice Sunday when McManis exploded around the left side of Tennessee's line, extended his arms and blocked Brett Kern's punt. The ball bounced high in the air before fellow Northwestern product Corey Wootton caught it and rumbled into the end zone.
McManis always gets complimentary calls and texts from family and friends after games. This time, they had the ring of truth.
"Family, they'll tell you 'Good game!' after every game regardless of how it is," McManis told RedEye with a laugh. "But I got a little more than I usually get. It was nice, people supporting me."
Along with family and friends, some of McManis' old Northwestern teammates sent congratulatory texts, while Jerry Brown, his defensive backs coach at NU, gave him a call.
The NFL took notice too, naming McManis the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
It's been a great week for the Peoria native, and when he gets back on the field Sunday night, it will be against the team that drafted him. Houston selected him in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL draft, three spots after McManis' hometown Bears selected a different cornerback.
"That would have been great if the Bears took me then," he said.
Instead of the Bears, it was the Texans, but because an injury kept him out of the NFL combine, the team was inconsequential.
"I just wanted to get drafted," McManis said.
He enjoyed his time in Houston ("Everybody was cool. [I] had friends there."), which included the franchise's first playoff appearance a year ago. Then in late August, McManis learned he was heading home: The Texans had traded him to the Bears.
He has fit in well on special teams and his seven special team tackles rank him third among his teammates. In October, the Bears re-signed former Bear Zack Bowman to add cornerback depth and work as insurance for McManis, who missed the Detroit game Oct. 22 with a hip injury. But McManis needs no extra incentive to stay motivated.
"I'm self-motivated regardless of who comes in or who doesn't," he said. "I want to be special. I don't want to be an average guy. I want to be able to help this team and just let them know that I'm glad they traded for me and I'm glad to be here."
After last week's impact play, no doubt the feeling is mutual.
Jack M Silverstein covers the Bears for RedEye. Say hey @ReadJack.
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