With the 2023 NFL Draft just over 24 hours away, several current Bears players recalled their unique draft experiences with ChicagoBears.com.
Each year only a select group of prospects are invited to attend the draft in person, leaving most of the collegiate players to host draft parties or wait from home for their names to be called.
Cornerback Kyler Gordon was one of the limited invitees at last year's draft when the Bears selected him at No. 39 overall, which was their first pick of the 2022 draft. While Gordon, a Washington product, considered staying home and hosting a big party for all his friends and family, he opted to fly to Las Vegas to be at the draft.
Gordon remembers staying up late to watch the NFL Draft as a kid thinking, "this is the most impossible place to be." It was also important to Gordon for his parents, cousin and sister to share the special experience with him.
"To me it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to really go there and walk on the stage, meet Roger Goodell, really just be there in the moment and take my family," Gordon said. "It was cool for me because I really wanted to take my dad and my cousin because they're big football fans, so I wanted them to see that and they deserve to be there. They got their own interviews; they walked on the red carpet.
"They deserve to be there and be appreciated too for all the sacrifices they made for me to even get there. I feel like it was more of an appreciation for my family and friends that were there too rather than me just being there myself."
Walking the red carpet then across the stage once selected was an "unbelievable feeling" for Gordon, who compared it to how a movie star likely feels. The entire weekend was an unforgettable experience as the cornerback was able to meet Hall of Famers, current NFL players and professional athletes in other sports, making sure to pick everyone's brain as much as possible.
While the entire weekend was filled with a range of emotions, the most anxiety-inducing moment was being in the green room with other prospects before being drafted. With the television broadcast a little behind the live action, Gordon received the call from Chicago several minutes before he made his way across the stage.
"I remember I got a call and I'm freaking out," Gordon said, "because you sit there in the green room, and you hear someone else's phone ringing and everyone's freaking out like 'whose phone is that?' My stomach just sinks and I'm reading the number like, 'what could this number be?' I see the caller ID and it's something in Illinois and I'm like, 'Oh s---, the Bears.' I was freaking out. My mind's racing, stomach's sinking, butterflies. I couldn't even think straight."
While Gordon became part of the small percentage of NFL players to actually attend the NFL Draft, Bears players like Teven Jenkins and Trevis Gipson spent the weekend at home surrounded by friends and family.
Jenkins, a second round pick in 2021, remembers having over 80 people at his draft party hosted by his brother-in-law in Wichita, Kansas. The most crucial part of the day was making sure Torchy's Tacos, a local Mexican restaurant, could cater the party.
Because Jenkins was unsure where he'd land in the draft, he hosted the large party on Day 1 before having a more intimate, family-focused gathering on Day 2, when he was selected by the Bears.
After going through the first round undrafted, Jenkins went into Day 2 with a pretty strong feeling it would be the day his life would change. When the Patriots were on the clock at Pick 38, his phone started ringing. While his entire family thought he was headed to New England, it was really Chicago calling to say they'd be selecting him with the following pick at No. 39.
While the offensive lineman had spent years preparing for the football side of being drafted, he quickly started to think of all the other implications of moving to a new city.
"Hopefully I get picked up at any time, the sooner the better," Jenkins said of his thoughts on draft day, "and hopefully it's not a state that has a lot of income tax. As long as my taxes won't be killing me, I'm good. You do have to think about when you get that signing bonus, how much is gonna go to taxes? Then I gotta look for a place to live. Different places like here in Chicago, rent is higher than different places like Cleveland or something. You can go down to Texas and get a house that's very cheap. So there's different factors that you actually start thinking about before you're drafted."
Gipson's experiences in 2020 were unlike any other year, as COVID-19 forced the draft to be held virtually. Instead of throwing a big party at an Airbnb he rented, Gipson had to reduce his group to 10 people.
While the Tulsa product hoped to be picked in the third or fourth round, he fell to the fifth which caused some initial discouragement. The morning of Day 3, Gipson remembers waking up and "looking myself in the mirror, knowing today's the day I've worked my whole life for."
Hours later, the Texas native received a call from the Bears and was selected with the 155th pick.
"I was frustrated, just laying in bed," Gipson said of his emotions heading into the fifth round. "Everybody else was in the living room and I got the call, and they told me it was Chicago. It was like, 'wow, this is really happening.' It was surreal. From there, started doing interviews, the calls and everybody was calling to congratulate. It was a lot; I've never had that many people that tapped into my life."
Trenton Gill – a 2022 seventh-round pick – was one of just four punters to be drafted last year. As a specialist, Gill's draft experience was different than the majority of his teammates – he knew if he was drafted, it wouldn't be until the final few rounds.
While most of the other 2022 prospects spent Day 1 and Day 2 awaiting a phone call and celebrating, Gill occupied his time with his normal activities, then had friends and family at his house in North Carolina on Day 3.
Because there are only 32 punters in the league, Gill had a good idea of which teams he could be headed to based on their need at the position. Chicago was at the top of Gill's list, as the North Carolina State product created connections with Bears special teams coordinator Richard Hightower and assistant special teams coach Carlos Polk prior to the draft.
"I got a phone call from the Chicago area, and I saw the Bears had a pick in two picks," Gill said. "It was super late in the draft, so a lot of teams were calling me like, 'hey we don't have any more picks, but if you're still available, we want to sign you.' I was like, 'no, let's see what happens, there's still a couple picks left.'
"Then I got a call and it was Ryan [Poles] and [Matt] Eberflus. They're like, 'hey this is who we are, we're with the Bears. We want you to be a Chicago Bear. Do you want to be a Bear?' And I was like, 'yeah, let's go.' The Bears were the No. 1 team on my list, but I saw they kind of had a need at punter and then I got along really well with 'HT' and coach Polk. It kind of all worked out."