Driven to improve entering his second NFL season, Bears tight end Cole Kmet spent the offseason studying tape of the league's best players at his position. But he didn't stop there.
The 2020 second-round draft pick headed to Nashville in June to participate in what was dubbed "Tight End University," a three-day gathering of nearly 50 top tight ends. The event was organized by recently retired former Bear Greg Olsen, the Chiefs' Travis Kelce and the 49ers' George Kittle.
The tight ends worked out on a field and shared trade secrets. It was similar to other events staged by Broncos star Von Miller for pass rushers and Eagles tackle Lane Johnson for offensive linemen.
"It was really cool, one of the coolest things I've done," Kmet said. "To get everyone together like that was really cool, to just kind of feed off everybody else and see what other guys are doing.
"For me, watching receivers is nice, but I can't do the stuff that [Bears speedy wideout] Darnell Mooney does. I'm just not that fast. So, being able to go get guys like [the Dolphins'] Mike Gesicki, [the Patriots'] Hunter Henry and Travis and George and Greg and learn from those guys, that's really beneficial for me."
One nuance that Kelce shared about route running stood out to Kmet.
"[The] big thing with Travis is, 'Don't run the line in the book,'" said the Bears tight end. "That's a big deal with him. Stay on the quarterback's timing and be where you have to be, but be creative with your routes. Just as long as you're on that quarterback's timing and you get in the right spot and you're open, no one's going to say anything."
Kmet enjoyed not only learning more about the position he plays but also getting to know his counterparts throughout the league.
"That was great," Kmet said. "It's funny how similar we all really are. A lot of us kind of have the same type of background, same type of personality; whether it's a play style or things like that, a lot of common things between one another, and that was really cool to see."
It was especially cool for Kmet to learn from perennial Pro Bowlers and Super Bowl champions. And although the second-year pro is less accomplished than some of the tight ends he spent time with in Nashville, he felt that he fit in "100 percent" with the group.
"Everyone there was awesome," Kmet said. "Being able to feed off of one another was great. I got a lot out of it and definitely felt like I belonged there, for sure."
Even before attending "Tight End University," Kmet was familiar with Kelce, who has been voted to six straight Pro Bowls—including in 2016 and 2017 when Bears coach Matt Nagy was the Chiefs' offensive coordinator.
"Coach worked with Travis back in Kansas City, and that's kind of what he's familiar with," Kmet said. "The play style that I kind of have looked after in my college days has always been [Mark] Bavaro types, [Rob] Gronkowski types, so kind of meshing those two types of play styles together has been really beneficial for me this offseason."
Kmet was eased into action last season as a rookie, in part because the offseason program and the entire preseason were cancelled due to COVID-19. But the Notre Dame product took advantage of expanded playing time late in the year, catching 20 passes for 149 yards in the final five games after recording eight receptions for 94 yards in the first 11 contests.
Given that late-season emergence, it was no surprise when Nagy said earlier this week that Kmet's "role is definitely going to increase" this year. Just as he did during offseason practices, the young tight end is determined to prove in training camp that he deserves the expanded playing time.
"This is a trust game," Kmet said. "So you've got to build trust with the coaches and the other players. That's just something that I'm going to continue to do. And I am going to work my butt off during practice and show them that they can trust me in big situations and get open when I need to get open."
The Bears took to the fields at Halas Hall on Friday for the second day of practices in front of fans at Dr Pepper Zero Sugar Training Camp.