Teven Jenkins was drafted by the Bears April 30. But the reality that he was about to realize a lifelong dream didn't actually sink in until he flew to Chicago Wednesday.
"It definitely set in for me when I got on that plane ride," said Jenkins, a tackle from Oklahoma State who was chosen in the second round with the 39th overall pick in the draft. "That's when it definitely hit me, that's when it hit me the hardest.
"I'd never been to Chicago, Illinois. As soon as I landed I felt like a tourist because I was looking side-to-side, looking out all the windows like, 'ooh, ahh,' trying to sightsee when I was in the plane and when I got into my car, too. It hit me hard because it's my dream and I'm just happy to be here."
Jenkins told reporters during a Zoom call Friday that when he gets some down time, he wants to see a skyscraper up close and sample some of Chicago's famous pizza.
Those excursions will have to wait, though, given that Jenkins is in town this weekend for one thing and one thing only: to participate in Bears rookie minicamp. The 6-6, 320-pounder is among 33 players who will take part in virtual meetings and non-contact practices Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Halas Hall.
"I definitely feel 100 percent ready, and it's just because of my offseason workouts all the way up to this point and what I've been doing," Jenkins said. "I'm working at my craft and my sets, and coming in here I'm starting to learn more technique, new technique. I'm trying to entwine that with what I've already learned, and I'm just trying to be ready."
Jenkins revealed that he's been studying the Bears playbook in 30-minute increments. He'll attempt to absorb as much information as possible, take a break to play video games or do something else, and then test his recall.
All Bears rookies are obviously dealing with the same assimilation process. Jenkins is especially excited about beginning to work with first-round pick Justin Fields, a quarterback from Ohio State.
"One thing I'm looking forward to is just seeing that chemistry between me and him," Jenkins said. "That's what it is. Learning how he sets up in the pocket, learning where I've got to sit and everything, and just seeing how he plays and how he reacts back there. Then carrying my sets and how I play with that, too. Then seeing if we have that good chemistry like hopefully we could have."
Chemistry on an offensive line is particularly important, and Jenkins has already spoken to some of his veteran teammates.
"I had a few reach out to me," he said. "The one I've been talking to mostly is Cody Whitehair. I've been talking back and forth with him. Basically he just reached out to see if I need a helping hand or anything, if I need extra help anywhere I can. All I can really say is I really appreciate him, and I really appreciate the things he's doing for me."
“Right now I’m just trying to learn everything I can and just absorb [all the] information I can.” Bears rookie tackle Teven Jenkins
Jenkins brings position versatility to the Bears; he started games at left tackle, right tackle and right guard the past four years at Oklahoma State. He spent last spring and summer working at left tackle and then started the season opener there. But when right tackle Hunter Anthony sustained a season-ending injury in the game, Jenkins unselfishly asked backup Jake Springfield which tackle position he preferred to play.
"I asked Jake which side he was more comfortable and he told me the left side," Jenkins said. "I said, 'All right, if it makes you comfortable, I'll go right side.' I could do that like a flip of the switch."
Jenkins did in fact flip that switch, starting Oklahoma State's next six games at right tackle before opting out for the rest of the season. The Bears rookie lineman, by the way, was and still is dating Springfield's sister, Sydney, who played softball at Oklahoma State. But he insists that had nothing to do with him being a good teammate.
"It wasn't like if he played left tackle, [I said] 'I'll date your sister,'" Jenkins said with a laugh. "I'm just happy to be with her. And there was no deal at all when it came to that, I can tell you that."
The recent release of veteran left tackle Charles Leno Jr. ignited speculation that the Bears were eyeing Jenkins as Leno's replacement. But earning a starting job is not yet on Jenkins' radar.
"Right now I'm not worried about that," he said. "I'm worried about actually just getting in, knowing my plays, getting to know my teammates, getting my feet wet in the scheme, doing all the techniques and everything. That's in the back of my head right now.
"Right now is for me to develop and progress, and if it comes to [winning a starting job], that's what it comes to because that's what I'm here to do. But at the end of the day, right now I'm just trying to learn everything I can and just absorb [all the] information I can."
33 players, including the Bears' 2021 draft class, hit the practice fields at Halas Hall Friday afternoon for the first day of rookie minicamp.