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After breakout rookie year, Howard remains hungry

Even after setting the Bears rookie rushing record in last year's season finale in Minnesota, Jordan Howard never slowed down.

The Bears running back enjoyed the spoils of his breakout first year during a busy offseason; he played in the Pro Bowl, made appearances during Super Bowl week in Houston, vacationed in the Dominican Republic on a Bears-sponsored trip with fans and traveled to California, Florida and Kentucky.

"It's been a whirlwind, but it's time to buckle down now," Howard said this week while participating in the Bears offseason program at Halas Hall.

Selected by the Bears in the fifth round of last year' draft out of Indiana, Howard started last season third on the depth chart and concluded it by becoming the first Bears rookie running back to be voted to the Pro Bowl since Hall of Famer Gale Sayers in 1965.

Take a look at Bears running back Jordan Howard's journey over the last year going back to the 2016 NFL Combine.

Howard set Bears rookie rushing records with 1,313 yards and seven 100-yard games. He also joined Hall of Famer Walter Payton as the only two players in team history to rush for at least 1,300 yards and average more than five yards per carry in a season.

Months later, however, Howard has put his stellar first year in his rearview mirror and is focused on becoming an even better player in 2017.

"I've just got to stay hungry because what I did last year doesn't matter this year," Howard said. "It's probably going to help me out with the starting job, but that's about it. I've just got to come out and keep proving myself and not get complacent."

Given Howard's background, it's unlikely that he will rest on his laurels. He remains the same kid who has always felt the need to prove himself—after getting lightly recruited out of high school, after transferring to Indiana when Alabama-Birmingham dropped its football program and after entering the NFL as a fifth-round draft pick.

"It's easy for me to stay hungry because I've always viewed myself as the underdog," Howard said. "I've always got a chip on my shoulder and I'm always coming out fighting."

After spending most of last offseason training for the NFL Combine, Howard is able to work on honing his football skills this year, especially his route running and ability to catch passes.

"It's definitely going to help a lot because I'm going to be in a lot better shape than I was last year," Howard said. "I know the plays this year. I won't be timid or even thinking. I'll be able to play loosely. I'm focusing on getting in better shape and being in better condition so I can play even more snaps."

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