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Jonathan Owens driven by dogged determination

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There's no better word to describe new Bears safety Jonathan Owens than "persistent."

Defined as "firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition," it's something that the 28-year-old has embodied since entering the NFL with the Cardinals in 2018 as an undrafted free agent from Division II Missouri Western State.

“Regardless of my role or whatever it’s going to be, I’m going to maximize it. I’m coming here to compete.” Bears safety Jonathan Owens

Owens sustained a season-ending torn ACL during the final week of OTA practices as an Arizona rookie and then spent most of the next three seasons on the Texans practice squad, appearing in just 14 games.

His big break came late in the 2021 campaign when he made the most of his second NFL start. Replacing a teammate who was sidelined with COVID, Owens intercepted Pro Bowl quarterback Justin Herbert to help the Texans upset the Chargers 41-29 in Houston.

Owens then started all 17 games in 2022 in Lovie Smith's only season as Texans coach, recording a career-high 125 tackles and four pass breakups.

The St. Louis native signed with the Packers last year and opened the season as a backup. But he excelled in place of injured regular Rudy Ford and retained his starting position after Ford had recovered from his injury.

It's no surprise what Owens believes has enabled him to overcome so many obstacles and establish himself as an NFL player.  

"Persistence," he said, "because [I was] told I wasn't good enough for the first three years of my career; just kept getting cut and [moved] up and down on the practice squad. But just being persistent and having that faith in God that everything was going to work out."

The two-year contract that Owens signed with the Bears this week is the latest evidence that it's worked out. And while it's unclear what his role will be on a defense that boasts a deep young secondary, history indicates that he should not be overlooked or underestimated.

"Regardless of my role or whatever it's going to be, I'm going to maximize it," Owens said. "I'm coming here to compete. Obviously, no one wants to come in and say, 'I'm coming in to play as a backup.' I know what I can do on special teams. I know what I can do on defense. I feel like that's what makes me a very valuable asset to a team because I can do whatever you need me to do and be versatile. I'm excited for the challenge, and wherever they feel they want me to be and feel that I'm best at, I'm ready to do it."

Check out new Bears defensive back Jonathan Owens in action. (Photos via AP)

Owens is also ready to learn from veteran safety Kevin Byard, a two-time first-team All-Pro who signed with the Bears this week after spending his first eight NFL seasons with the Titans (2016-23) and Eagles (2023).

Speaking to reporters Friday, Owens described a play in which Byard intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown in a 2021 game.

"I'm a football junkie," Owens said. "Any interception guys get, I want to see, 'How'd you do it? What made you get in that position?' I'm very excited to learn from [Byard]. Anybody who knows more than I do, I'm always a sponge, so I'm excited to get in the room with him."

Owens laughed when informed by a reporter that he's already a hero to Bears fans for helping the Texans rally in miraculous fashion to beat the Colts in the 2022 season finale. The result enabled the Bears to claim the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft, an asset they traded to the Panthers in exchange for receiver DJ Moore and four draft choices, including a 2024 first-rounder that turned out to be the No. 1 overall selection.

"Yeah, but people were also telling us to try and lose that game so the Texans could get the No. 1 pick," Owens said. "But like who in their right mind is going to go out there and not compete to the best of your ability and put great film out there? After the game we realized the magnitude of how everything happened, but we were trying to win, man."

Owens isn't the only member of his family who is familiar with winning. Last April he married Simone Biles, the most decorated American gymnast in history who has won seven Olympic medals and eight U.S. Gymnastics titles.

Biles showed her excitement about Owens signing with the Bears on social media. She celebrated that she will no longer have to take connecting flights to visit her husband like she did when he played in Green Bay and expressed her love for the city of Chicago as well as hot dogs and pizza.

"Me and my wife, we're both super excited," Owens said. "You've seen she's excited about the pizza. That's her favorite food. She can't wait to get here and experience that and experience the city of Chicago, the culture, and just be a part of this amazing organization."

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