Devin Hester gets pumped when the jets fly over Soldier Field. His is just… (Jos? M. Osorio / Chicago…)
Life in the real world ain't the same as childhood. More intensity, more responsibility. Same goes for life in the NFL. RedEye sat down with a slew of Bears and asked them for their "Welcome To the NFL" moment—when they knew, "I'm not in college anymore."
Matt Forte, sixth-year running back
Probably my first padded practice in camp my rookie year. I lined up and had Brian Urlacher across from me, and Lance Briggs and Tommie Harris. Just a lot of Pro Bowl-type people on defense. I was like, "Man, I'm in the NFL now, and I gotta play against these guys." That was probably it.
Earl Bennett, sixth-year wide receiver
My 'Welcome To the NFL' moment was my rookie year playing in [Lucas Oil Stadium]. We played Indy, and it was just loud and crazy. It was a feeling that gave me chills throughout my body.
Joe Anderson, second-year wide receiver
The moment I got [to Chicago] and got off that bus. I came from Texas as a tryout. That was my moment right there. My opportunity I always asked God for, and I went out there and took advantage of it.
As far as actionwise, in a game, my moment was that opening kickoff when I went down and smashed [Green Bay return man Randall] Cobb. The second one was when I caused a fumble against Detroit. That's when I knew it was time to go to work. I'm not just another cat. I'm out here.
Kyle Adams, third-year tight end
I think it was my rookie year, my second preseason game. We're playing the Giants. I was on kickoff return, and the kickoff guy put me on my back. He was a big, strong guy. That's when I knew this was a level up.
Jermon Bushrod, seventh-year offensive lineman
Honestly, just getting out there and practicing. Seeing the physicality and the speed that these guys play with on a daily basis is quite the wakeup call. For me, just going through the motions and fighting to get better, and then realizing that this is quite the step up from [Division] I-AA Towson where I came from. I've just been adjusting as much as I can.
Cory Brandon, third-year offensive lineman
When I was in Tampa with the Buccaneers, I was going against one of the best D-tackles [in practice], Gerald McCoy. I actually played with him in college. Great guy. But he can play, and he just blew right by me on the reach block. I had to redeem myself later on.
Shea McClellin, second-year defensive lineman
First play last year. Training camp. I remember it was just totally different. Pretty sure I got my ass whipped.
Stephen Paea, third-year defensive lineman
It was my rookie year. I was a second-round pick, and they usually keep them around. But when I came in it wasn't like they treated me like a high draft pick. They treated me like a new guy coming to the team, trying to make the team, and I gotta work my butt off. When I got here after the lockout, Rod Marinelli was my defensive line coach. He was just on me. He was being hard on me. And that hit me that I'm here in the league. This is how the league is, and it's not an easy task.
Nate Collins, fourth-year defensive lineman
I was on the Giants. It was my rookie year. I was on the practice squad, and I was late one morning. And [coach Tom] Coughlin told the equipment guys to take all the stuff out of my locker. So when I'm walking into the locker room, I see my locker, and it's empty. And I'm thinking it's over. I already got cut for being late. So I'm walking up to his office with the worst feeling in the world. He was like, "How do you feel right now? Do you feel like I was going to cut you? I want you to feel like that. Because if you're ever late again, that's what's going to happen." I was happy to be fined instead of being cut.
Charles Tillman, 11th-year cornerback
My "Welcome To the NFL" moment was my first preseason game, when I saw my uniform. That was it.
Zack Bowman, sixth-year cornerback
My moment was my first game in the National Football League. We played the Minnesota Vikings. … I had a muffed punt [I recovered] in the end zone for a touchdown, and then we had a few guys on defense go down, and I was in the game. I had an interception. And then I was out for the season. I tore my bicep. For me, it was like, I hate to be out for the year, because I want to keep playing, but it made me realize that I could play in this league.
Sherrick McManis, fourth-year cornerback
I was hurt before the draft, and I wasn't able to do any combine. No 40-[yard dash], no vertical jump, no anything. And God blessed me to get drafted still. Houston drafted me. That year I worked hard to get healthy and I made the team. That was my 'Welcome To the NFL' moment, just making the team and contributing.
Isaiah Frey, second-year cornerback
It was probably last year when I came out to my rookie minicamp and I had messed up on a play. My coach jumped on me about it.
Major Wright, fourth-year safety