At this time last year, Bears right tackle Larry Borom was fighting for a roster spot. On the day of final cuts, Borom endured the waiting game, hoping he didn't receive a call, which would indicate he was being cut.
Borom's phone never rang. He called his mom and his girlfriend to tell them he made the 53-man roster, then got back to work. As a rookie, Borom knew he couldn't sit back and get comfortable. To him, the hardest part had just begun.
But on cutdown day this year, Borom didn't stare at his phone all day. While it was still a difficult day, seeing teammates leave that were grinding alongside him every day, Borom woke up that morning confident in his own position.
Borom attributes that sense of security following this year's training camp to his continual growth as a player.
"My whole mindset was just come in and do my job at a high level," Borom said. "I want to be here. That was my whole focus from OTAs all the way through. Just trying to get better every day, get better than last year for sure and just work, just let everything play out.
"I feel like at the start of camp, I was trying to find my way. Then I hit a little groove and just continued to grow every day. I want to show everybody I'm trying to do everything I can for our unit and for our team to put us in the best position."
The second-year lineman played with the first-team offense in all three preseason games, maintaining the starting right tackle spot throughout the entirety of camp. Following the Bears' preseason matchup in Seattle, coach Matt Eberflus praised Borom's consistency as a starter.
General manager Ryan Poles also complimented Borom's growth throughout the preseason.
"Shoot, I mean, we came in and we had to lose some weight, the scheme was going to change," Poles said. "He did that. He was locked in. He's been more and more consistent as we've gone along. He's another one we're proud of."
In his rookie year, Borom started eight of the final 10 games. While he played as a reserve in Week 1, Borom injured his ankle against the Rams and missed the next six weeks.
The hardest part of the injury for Borom was watching everyone else go out and play, knowing he couldn't suit up for several games. As a rookie, Borom knew the only way to progress was by playing and gaining experience.
While he finished out the year with the first-team offense, Borom knew he needed to exhibit even more improvement this offseason to maintain a starting role. As a fifth-round draft pick in 2021, Borom feels the work can never stop. He's always trying to prove himself.
That mentality didn't develop overnight, however. It dates back to his childhood when he watched his mom work nonstop to provide for her family.
"I'm never really satisfied with anything," Borom said. "Since I was little, I've always been an underdog kind of person; always have [had] to battle uphill. So I mean, I always have to have a chip on my shoulder.
"I had to watch my mom work seven days a week, so I knew I had to go out there and do something. That's kind of where it stemmed from, watching her be a waitress and just really put herself in a position to try and bring our household up. I had to do everything I could to try and make something."
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Borom is grateful for the "never-get-tired state of mind" his mom instilled in him. It allows him to push through anything, whether it's on the football field or in life.
When moments get hard, Borom thinks of the sacrifices his mom made and why his success is so important. While seeing his goal of playing in the NFL come to fruition has been special, Borom takes more pride in being able to take care of his family. If his mom needs something or little things in the house need to be fixed, Borom can take care of it without a worry and that's what makes him the happiest.
Borom also finds comfort in knowing his mom will always be his No. 1 supporter. She rarely, if ever, misses a game, and she still challenges her son to keep growing.
"She's happy. She's beyond happy and excited," Borom said. "She pushes me though, she acts like she's playing, She's got a chip, she's got something to prove. So she always brings that up to me. She never lets me get satisfied, so I owe that all to her."
Borom's mom will be watching from the Soldier Field stands as her son takes the field this Sunday for the season opener against the 49ers. He is excited to get to the regular season and help to show what the offense is capable of.
Borom feels good about where the offensive line is heading into Week 1, as the unit has taken significant reps together in the last couple weeks. Personally, Borom is ready to show his team that they can count on him in any situation.
As for the O-line unit, Borom knows everyone is eager to prove some of the outsiders wrong.
"I feel like with just the outside noise in general, they're always gonna have an opinion," he said. "We know the work that we put in, we know what we're about to do. So it'll all come to light. It will all come to light, all the work we put in."