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Bears' recent draftees share special meaning behind draft hats

Story by Gabby Hajduk

NFL Draft weekend features a variety of iconic moments each year when the top college prospects have their lifelong dreams realized on a national stage.

For new draftees, one of those once-in-a-lifetime memories is receiving and putting on their team's draft hat for the first time. The exact moment differs for each player, whether they're donning their new hat while walking across the draft stage to hug NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or picking their team's cap from a pile after receiving the life-changing phone call from their home.

No matter the scenario, the hat holds the same level of significance and symbolizes the beginning of their NFL careers for each player.

With the 2024 NFL Draft kicking off Thursday night in Detroit, six current Bears shared the meaning behind the hats they received when they were drafted and where they are now.

Tight end Cole Kmet (2020, 2nd round, 43rd overall)

As part of the 2020 NFL Draft class, Kmet's experience was atypical. Because the entire draft was conducted virtually as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL sent top prospects hats from all 32 teams in attempt to give players as normal of an experience as possible.

Two days before Kmet was drafted No. 43 overall by the Bears, his girlfriend told him, "I think you're going to the Bears." But because of the club's position in the draft and the tight ends on the roster at the time, Kmet didn't think going to his hometown team was a viable option.

That uncertainty made the call Kmet received from Chicago that much sweeter. He watched his name flash across the TV screen, shared an emotional moment with his family then put the Bears hat on for the first time as a player rather than a fan.

"The hat [symbolizes] all the hard work that you've put in up until that point and then all the hard work to come as well," Kmet said. "Just the start of a new chapter of your life and of your football career. It's really exciting and also kind of terrifying too. You're entering a whole new organization and for a lot of guys, a whole new city, a new atmosphere, so there's a lot of new to it. But it's also very exciting."

Cole Kmet celebrating his selection to the Bears with his mother.
Cole Kmet celebrating his selection to the Bears with his mother.

Kmet wore the hat so often following the draft that he said it's "so beat up now." To preserve it, he keeps the hat in his closet as a special piece of memorabilia rather than wearing it out any more.

"I just wore it causally," Kmet said. "I thought it was a good hat. I have a ton of hats at home. I'm a big hat guy, but I'm kind of picky on them too — they gotta fit well and be comfortable to wear. Some of them are, some of them aren't, and oddly enough, that one was a comfortable hat. I wore it all the time, so definitely fond of that hat and it has a lot of meaning to me."


Offensive lineman Teven Jenkins (2021, 2nd round, 39th overall)

Jenkins had a similar draft experience in 2021, hosting a party at home with friends and family. As a projected Day 1 or early Day 2 pick, Jenkins was also sent all 32 hats, which were set up at his house.

When Jenkins received a phone call early in the second round, the TV showed New England on the clock. What his family and friends didn't know yet was the Bears had traded up 13 spots to select Jenkins with the No. 39 overall pick.

"We were sitting there wondering what team I was going to get picked by," Jenkins said. "But what they didn't tell you is the TV copy is a little slow, so on the screen it said the Patriots and I'm like, 'I need a hat.' Everyone's like, 'Oh the Patriots!' But then I'm like, 'aye, aye, no. Chicago.'

"I got the hat and it was very cool to see everyone hyped just for which hat I had and to see my name on the TV. Everyone got excited for me, and I was there soaking the moment in."

Jenkins sported the hat with a calm demeanor while his party erupted in cheers when his name was called. While he didn't show much emotion in the moment, Jenkins was silently processing the experience. Now when he reflects on his draft day, the hat serves as a reminder of those hidden emotions.

"It was nice to have that hat as a symbol of the Bears picking me," Jenkins said. "Now, it sits on my bar downstairs in my basement in my little man cave. It's really cool to have that there and every time I go down there, it's something that stands out to me."


Cornerback Kyler Gordon (2022, 2nd round, 39th overall)

In 2022, cornerback Kyler Gordon received the opportunity of a lifetime when he was invited to the NFL Draft in Las Vegas. Gordon, a second-round pick, embraced the entire experience while he walked the red carpet, met with current and former players and even got fitted for his hat before Day 1 of the draft.

While Gordon spent Day 1 and the beginning of Day 2 waiting in the green room with other prospects, he finally received the call from general manager Ryan Poles Friday night and was selected at No. 39. The Washington product — who was Poles' first-ever pick as GM — shared an emotional embrace with his family, received his Bears hat and checked out his new look before heading to hug Goodell on stage.


Gordon still remembers the exact moment he was handed the hat and the rush of feelings it brought.

"When I got my draft hat, it symbolized the team really trusting me," Gordon said. "They're giving me an honor like, 'here, we want you to be a part of this,' and giving me an opportunity. To me, that's what that hat represented and when I put it on, I'm agreeing that both sides are going to give each 100% and do our best to change things around and win a Super Bowl."

Gordon flew to Chicago first thing the following morning and, for awhile, kept his hat in his locker at Halas Hall. Now, he has it back at home in Seattle for safe keeping.

Chicago Bears draft picks pose for a photo at Halas Hall, Thursday, May 5, 2022, in Lake Forest, Illinois.

Safety Jaquan Brisker (2022, 2nd round, 48th overall)

The Bears' second pick in the 2022 draft came quickly after Gordon when the team selected safety Jaquan Brisker No. 48 overall. The Penn State product hosted a party back home in Pittsburgh where he only had hats from a few select teams that he "knew needed a safety right then to go in and play."

Brisker remembers his dad being the one who brought the Bears hat to the party and handing it to him after receiving the call from Poles. Waiting for his name to be announced while holding the Bears hat was a moment Brisker had been dreaming of for years.

"Once [a player] gets drafted you always see the guy — whether he's at his house or at the draft — you see him just grab the hat and they're just rocking it the whole day. I saw that growing up and once I had that feeling, it was official."

When Brisker could finally put the hat on and call himself a Chicago Bear, everything felt official.

"The feeling was 'I finally know where I'm gonna go. I can embrace the city,'" Brisker said. "And really, my family seeing me be drafted, it was a dream of mine. So just letting it all sink in and when I put the hat on, I was like, 'it's official. I'm a Bear.' It was a crazy moment. It was amazing, for real."

The hat Brisker wore at his draft party was not the Bears' official draft hat, so when he arrived at Halas Hall that weekend, the safety received his "real" draft hat, which is now kept on his dresser at home.


Offensive lineman Darnell Wright (2023, 1st round, 10th overall)

As a projected first-round pick, offensive lineman Darnell Wright received an invite to the 2023 NFL Draft but opted to have a party at home instead. The NFL sent all 32 draft hats to Wright, who had them set up on a table right in front of his seat.

Upon receiving the call from Poles, Wright grabbed the Bears hat out of the pile, hugged his mom then put the hat on once the No. 10 pick was announced.

"It was kind of crazy," Wright said. "I was sitting there almost like, 'did that really just happen?' You've been waiting on that moment for a long time. Then it finally happens and it's like, 'Oh' and then you put the hat on."

Darnell Wright hugging his mother after being selected by the Bears.
Darnell Wright hugging his mother after being selected by the Bears.

Choosing the Bears hat was a surreal feeling for Wright, who had been anxiously awaiting to learn which organization would select him.

"You put it on, finally, because the whole time you don't know what team is going to pick you," Wright said. "You're meeting with coaches and all that, doing workouts and you just don't know where you're gonna be at. So then putting on the hat is like, 'I'm here.' It was cool, just finally that relief of knowing where you're gonna be."

After making a stop in Chicago the following day to meet with the club and speak with media, Wright gave the hat to his mom, who keeps it with her at home.


Defensive tackle Gervon Dexter Sr. (2023, 2nd round, 53rd overall)

One of the Bears' most recent draft picks, defensive tackle Gervon Dexter Sr., collected his hats in a less traditional way. Because he was not going to receive draft hats from the NFL, Dexter kept the hats that teams gave him from his 18 top 30 visits.

At his draft party last year, Dexter laid out the hats from "every team I felt was interested," which included the Bears.

"It was surreal because after coming here on the 30 visit, I just felt it," Dexter said. "I felt the different type of vibe. After every visit I would explain to my family, 'this visit went this way, this visit went that way.' After the [Bears'] visit, I could explain it to them, but they still wouldn't be able to feel how I felt after leaving here."

The vibe that Dexter felt was reciprocated by the Bears, who selected him with the No. 53 overall pick.

"Just putting that hat on, the tradition of being here felt so surreal," Dexter said. "It was something super similar to when you commit to your college, and you grab that hat. It's a [symbol] of who you are and where you're gonna be at."

Gervon Dexter Sr.'s son wearing his draft hat.
Gervon Dexter Sr.'s son wearing his draft hat.

Dexter shared that moment with his family, including his son — Gervon Dexter Jr. — and his mom, who now keeps his hat in her closet.


"My mom has it," Dexter said. "I gave it to my mom to let her have it. She was very excited that day. I'm her youngest child so to see how excited she was, it was a blessing."

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