On Oct. 22, 2022, Tyson Bagent passed for 296 yards and three touchdowns to lead Division II Shepherd University to a 47-14 win over West Chester College in front of 2,123 fans in West Chester, Pa.
Exactly one year later, the 23-year-old is expected to be the Chicago Bears' starting quarterback when they host the Las Vegas Raiders before a crowd of about 60,000 at Soldier Field.
The biggest difference between the two scenarios?
"The details, a lot of details," Bagent said. "Obviously, the team I'm going against Sunday is a little bit better than West Chester. There are quite a bit more details than there were a year ago. Other than that, you just play hard and operate in sync with the guys you've got."
Regardless of what transpires Sunday and beyond, Bagent is already a success story worthy of a Disney movie. After signing with the Bears as an undrafted free agent, he beat out presumed backup P.J. Walker for a roster spot in training camp and the preseason and later leapfrogged veteran Nathan Peterman for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.
When Justin Fields exited last Sunday's game against the Vikings with a dislocated right thumb, Bagent made his NFL debut, completing 10 of 14 passes for 83 yards. The Martinsburg, W. Va., native committed two turnovers but also engineered an impressive 77-yard drive that he capped with his first pro touchdown on a 1-yard sneak.
A week later, with Fields not expected to play, Bagent is preparing for his first pro start. Given his humble background, how is he not overwhelmed by the task at hand?
"I think my life has been planned out for me ahead of time," Bagent said. "I think everything that has happened and will happen was already set in stone to happen. And I think coming from where I come from, I've pretty much beat every odd that there was for me, so I've got nothing to lose. I'm going to go out there and fight with these guys to the death and try to stack up as many wins as I can until we get Justin back."
Bagent has beaten the odds in large part due to his unrelenting preparation and attention to detail.
"If you're not the fastest guy and you're not the best athlete on the field, as long as you know where you're going and can play all positions on the field or know what everybody's doing, you're usually going to operate a little bit better than guys that might be a little bit better than you physically," Bagent said.
"I kind of learned it [in college]. And then especially at this level, everybody's really smart and really fast, so really understanding what's going on around me has been the only real focal point since I've been here."
Bagent wasn't just a big fish in a small bowl at Shepherd; he was more like "Otto" in the children's book "A Fish Out of Water," growing and growing and growing. Playing in 53 games over five seasons, he set the all-time record for most TD passes across all NCAA divisions with 159. Bagent won the Harlon Hill Trophy as Division II National Player of the Year in 2021 after passing for 5,000 yards and 53 touchdowns. In 2022, he was named Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference East Offensive Player of the Year after throwing for 4,580 yards and 41 TDs.
While impressive, Bagent knew that those accomplishments guaranteed him nothing at the next level. It's why the opportunity he's receiving with the Bears "means everything" to him. On Wednesday, he told reporters about a conversation he had with a close friend after playing his last college game.
"We were kind of talking about, 'Hey, no matter how good or bad this goes at the next level, there is a very big chance that maybe you make the team, but you might never get to start a game ever again in your whole life,'" Bagent said. "That's just kind of how the apple falls from the tree sometimes.
"But to look where I'm at and to look how everything has kind of fallen into place, just nothing but extreme gratitude and just feeling super blessed to be that kind of motivational role to the younger people in my family—be that person they can look up to—and just really motivation for everybody that may be at a smaller level and all the people back home."