With the Chicago Bears in Indianapolis for their third preseason game, that left Halas Hall wide open for another group of football players to move in on Friday, August 23, and that’s exactly what happened as hundreds of local youth and high school players convened for a one day camp sponsored by Nike. The theme of the Training Day camp was “Sport Changes Everything,” and it kicked off with former Bears, Alex Brown and Matt Forte, sharing some advice with the kids.
Both ex-Bears shared their experiences growing up in small towns and the type of dedication it took to achieve their success, saying that having a structure in both school and in sports was a key for them. “Sports is important, but it’s more important to be a good person,” Matt Forte told the boys and girls in attendance, “because that’s what people will remember about you.”
They also stressed the importance of working hard in school because the odds of making it to the NFL are slim, and the athletes need to make sure to have a good plan for their future. But as for how to go from being a good football player to being a great football player, they both said it’s all about putting the work in. “Do more than what’s required of you,” Forte said. “If a drill requires so many reps, you should always do more.”
Brown talked about having a no regrets mindset, “Have fun, go one hundred miles per hour, so you never look back and say you wish you would have done more. Always do your best.”
While the players got loose before hitting some drills at the Walter Payton Center, I was able to grab Matt Forte and Alex Brown to talk a little about the event and the 2019 Bears.
Forte told me that helping out at the youth camps is so important to him because kids learning the proper fundamentals is key to growing the game. He added that with a lot of parents taking their kids out of football, it’s critical to make sure everyone is taught the right technique to keep the game safe. Forte’s own football journey began at seven-years old, and his coaches always stressed the fundamentals to him.
I also had to get his take on the revamped running back room of the Bears and he’s excited to see what this new group can do from a schematic standpoint. He mentioned how perfect David Montgomery is for the offense, and that Cordarrelle Patterson will also give head coach Matt Nagy some interesting options.
When it was my turn to talk with Brown, I learned that he was an All-State selection as a quarterback in high school, and Auburn wanted him to play there as a QB. He said he threw for a thousand yards and ran for a thousand yards as a high school senior, but since he was also a highly rated linebacker — and he didn’t think he could make it to the NFL on offense — he decided on Florida and playing defense. I’m sure Bears’ fans everywhere are happy with that choice.
As for his helping out at the camp and giving back to the kids of the community he said, “I think you have to do it. How do you not do it? At some point — to every professional athlete, you were that kid.”
Brown is very passionate about helping young athletes, and as evidenced during the drills, he has a blast doing it.
Alex Brown having a blast with the kids in this fumble drill.Posted by Windy City Gridiron: For Chicago Bears Fans on Friday, August 23, 2019
“No body is going to help you miss every pothole throughout life,” Brown continued. “But if they can move a couple out of the way and give you a better opportunity to make it, then why not?”
When Brown talks with the kids, his goal is to give them a couple takeaways that they can use that will help them make better decisions in life. “That’s the giving back part that I love so much.”
Since Brown was a part of the last really good Bears’ defense (2006), I had to get his take on the 2019 Bears defense, and in particular, if he believes they’ll be a regression from a year ago. “If there’s a regression then I don’t think it’s going to be because of the players,” Brown said. “I think it will be because of the new (defensive) coaching staff. We don’t know how they’re going to call plays. With Coach Pagano, we don’t know what he’s going to do on third and one or third and thirteen. Is he going to allow the front four to get after the quarterback, or is he going to blitz?”
New defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano does have a reputation for blitzing more than last year’s D.C. Vic Fangio, and that could be a good thing, but also a bad thing. “When you blitz you can get to the quarterback faster,” Brown said, “but you put your guys on an island.”
He does feel like last year’s defense was good, but not great, and there’s room for them to grow. Brown cautioned what a change in defensive coordinator could mean by referencing their 2006 team, that was ranked in the top 5 with Ron Rivera calling plays, but fell off in 2007 becoming a bottom 5 unit. They had the same general cast of players on defense each year, but lost defensive coordinator Rivera before ‘07.
Forte and Brown are both members of Bears Postgame Live on NBC Sports along with another former Bear, Lance Briggs, with host Laurence Holmes, and this season they’ll have another ex-Bears’ player on the panel in Olin Kreutz. For anyone that has listened to Kreutz on the radio, checked him out on Twitter, or followed his career, you know he’ll bring an interesting take to the show.
Forte is excited to have another offensive player in studio to do verbal battle with Brown and Briggs, and he’s excited at the Xs & Os takes Kreutz can bring to the show.
When I asked Brown his thoughts on the show now having two offensive guys to take on the two defensive guys, he laughed and said, “It’s still not an even match-up. You know how it goes when it’s offensive linemen against defensive linemen, there’s always four against five and they think that’s even, but we still win, so it doesn’t matter. It’s never even, ever.”
Forte, who was now back over by us, heard Brown disparaging the offense and blurted out, “That’s the biggest load of crap I’ve ever heard,” which got us all laughing.
Brown then got serious to laud the addition of Krutz saying, “It’s going to be awesome. I think Olin brings a different view of how the game is being played. I can’t wait to hear it. I know I’ll learn something from Olin and how he looks at the game. I’m excited and it’s going to be fun.”
Friday’s “Nike Training Day” was just the latest in a series of camps that Nike has held this Summer around the Chicagoland area as they’re “committed to getting kids moving so they can lead healthier, happier and more successful lives.”
Nike believes that ‘Sport Changes Everything’ and has the power to push ourselves, our communities and our world forward.
One thing that made this camp interesting was the last portion of the day saw the high school kids interacting with and mentoring the younger players through the full group drills and challenges.
For more on Sports Changes Everything from Nike, you can click here.