BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Bears star Khalil Mack slept in a dorm room Thursday night for the first time since he was a student/athlete at the University of Buffalo in 2014.
“It reminded me of UB back in the day,” said the All-Pro outside linebacker. “It’s a wooden bed. I might have to get another layer of cushion on there because it looks a little thin. But it should be smooth though.”
Mack sat out training camp last summer during a contract impasse with the Raiders. He was traded to the Bears Sept. 1 after his new team had already returned to Halas Hall following its annual stint at Olivet Nazarene University.
Asked what his Bears teammates have told him about training camp in Bourbonnais, Mack said: “They told me I’m going to love it. I don’t know if it’s sarcastic or not, but I’m looking forward to it.”
The four-time Pro Bowler revealed that he’s especially eager to build more camaraderie with his teammates and improve on a daily basis.
“That’s what it’s all about—coming together and getting better as a team and making the most of this time,” Mack said.
This summer figures to be much different for Mack than last year, when he worked out on his own during training camp. A private person, he declined to reveal where he prepared for the 2019 season.
“I can’t tell you all that,” Mack said with a smile. “I try to keep all my stuff under wraps, try to work in a dungeon. Nobody sees me.”
Driven to be great, Mack evidently worked extremely hard on his own to prepare for the season. Despite not participating in training camp or any preseason games, he opened the regular season with a bang against the Packers, returning an interception for a touchdown and forcing and recovering a fumble on a strip/sack of quarterback DeShone Kizer.
Mack was named the NFC defensive player of the month for September after registering five sacks, four forced fumbles and one interception in four games.
Mack finished the season leading the Bears with 12.5 sacks and a career-high six forced fumbles. He also ranked second on the team with 10 tackles-for-loss. His 12.5 sacks were the most by a Bears player since Hall of Famer Richard Dent also had 12.5 sacks in 1993.
During his time away from training camp last summer, Mack enjoyed being “on the outside looking in.” But he never lost his focus.
“It was cool to see what was going on, what was being said, who thought this and who thought that,” Mack said. “But ultimately I knew whatever happened, I was going to hit the ground running. I’m glad the Bears gave me that opportunity and I’m still trying to make the most of it.”
Regardless of where Mack works out, he’s motivated by one thought.
“I want to be the best,” he said. “A part of being the best is working hard along with talent. That's what I've been taught throughout my whole career. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard.
Mack’s teammates are thrilled that he’s with them in Bourbonnais for training camp.
“He’s just one of those players that fits perfectly into our culture,” said quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. “He makes people around him better. He makes the defense better because he raises everybody’s level of focus, intensity and competitiveness.
“He also makes our tackles and our o-linemen better just competing with them in practice. We’re just going to have to take care of each other in practice. But I truly believe that competition brings out the best in everybody and iron sharpens iron and he’s one of those guys that’s going to push our offense and make sure everybody’s getting better.”
Receiver Allen Robinson II was in the same 2014 draft class as Mack and is impressed with his teammate’s humility and work ethic.
“Being the player that he is, he’s a very humble person,” Robinson said. “Being able to see him and how he goes about each and everything each and every day, it inspires you as a player to want to continue to get better.”