An early-morning phone call from a loved one often brings ominous news. So it's understandable that Bears guard Michael Schofield III was worried when he saw his father's number pop up on his cell phone at about 7:30 a.m. on Monday, July 25.
As soon as he began to comprehend what his dad was saying, however, Schofield's emotions quickly transformed from concern to relief to euphoria. The veteran offensive lineman had tried out with the Bears a day earlier and now the team the Orland Park native grew up rooting for wanted to sign him to a one-year contract.
Schofield's agent knew how special it would be for his client to hear the news from his father, so he gave Michael Schofield II the honor of informing his son.
"His agent called me and said, 'Mr. Schofield, the Bears called and I want you to tell Michael," his father told ChicagoBears.com. "Because I was calling early, he goes, 'Dad, what's the matter?' I said, 'You're a Bear.' He said, 'What, wait?' I said, 'I just talked to your agent.' It was pretty emotional for me and he was so, so excited."
Schofield's father cried when telling his son that he'd be joining the team they've both cheered for all of their lives.
"He always wanted to come to the Bears," said the elder Schofield, who is the fire chief of the Orland Fire Protection District. "It was his dream."
Schofield and his wife, Gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic women's national hockey star Kendall Coyne Schofield, were walking their dogs near their Orland Park home when his dad called.
"The way he found out was just so special for all of us," Kendall said. "We ran in the house and called his agent and his agent said, 'I wanted your dad to be the one to tell you you're going to be a Bear.' It was a really special moment."
“I always wanted to land here. Growing up here, I was a pretty big Bear fan. It’s a dream come true for sure to be able to play here.” Bears guard Michael Schofield III
Schofield started playing football in sixth grade—after he accompanied his mother to pick up football equipment for his younger brother, Andrew, and coaches marveled at his size.
Schofield joined the football team as a freshman at Carl Sandburg High School in Orland Park. But he wasn't an immediate star.
"Beginning high school, he wasn't a kid who stood out," his dad said. "I was always a firefighter. I didn't play football, so I was no help. But he's a fighter. He got everywhere he got by fighting and hard work."
Schofield ultimately earned a scholarship to Michigan, where he was named second-team All-Big Ten. In 2014, he was selected by the Broncos in the third round of the draft. He became Denver's starting right tackle in his second season and helped the team win Super Bowl 50, defeating the Panthers 24-10.
Schofield started all 16 games at right guard in 2016 but was waived during final cuts in 2017. Claimed the next day by the Chargers, he moved back to right tackle in 2017 and then started all 16 games at right guard in both 2018 and 2019.
Schofield signed with the Panthers in 2020, appearing in 11 games with three starts—two at left guard and one at left tackle. He joined the Ravens in June 2021 but was released as part of final cuts. He then returned to the Chargers for a second stint last September and played 15 games with 12 starts at right tackle.
Even when he wore other uniforms, Schofield never lost his desire to play for the Bears.
"I always wanted to land here," he said after signing. "Growing up here, I was a pretty big Bear fan. It's a dream come true for sure to be able to play here."
As a kid, the first Bears jersey that Schofield owned was receiver Marty Booker's No. 86. He never dreamed of donning a number like the No. 64 he wears today.
"I wanted to play wide receiver back in the day," Schofield said. "That's what I was hoping for. I used to be able to catch, and then I put on a lot of weight, so that changed. I feel like not many people grow up wanting to be linemen. They all want to start off scoring touchdowns and then get put in the offensive line position."
Schofield has fond memories of the Bears winning back-to-back NFC North championships in 2005-06 and reaching the Super Bowl to cap the 2006 season.
"I'll never forget the Super Bowl where [Devin] Hester returned the opening kickoff and everything, all that stuff," he said. "I grew up with all of that. [Brian] Urlacher, [Lance] Briggs, Olin Kreutz, all those guys. I was a big Bears fan growing up."
Schofield said that when he signed with the Bears, it felt like he "got drafted all over again" because his family was so happy. And it's not just his parents and wife.
"I grew up on the South Side of Chicago and we have so many cousins and aunts and uncles," his father said. "Everybody's excited."
Schofield's family support has been evident throughout training camp. This past Saturday, his parents, wife and in-laws attended practice on a hot and humid day in Lake Forest. Sitting in the top row of the bleachers, Kendall said she didn't think there was a more passionate Bears fan on the field, in the stands or in Halas Hall than her husband.
"I've just never seen him happier, and he's done everything," she said. "He's played college football, he's made it to the NFL, he's won a Super Bowl. But I don't think there's any dream greater than this one, and it's being able to play for your hometown team that you grew up rooting for."
Many NFL veterans view preseason openers as a necessary evil, just like going to the dentist. But Schofield is eagerly anticipating running out of the home team's tunnel for the first time Saturday when the Bears host the Chiefs. (He's already played at Soldier Field as an opponent.)
"It will be my first time putting on a Bears jersey, so that will be pretty special for me, definitely," he said. "I'm looking forward to that."
Schofield's mother, Kathy, only wishes that her son's late grandfathers could have seen Michael play for their beloved team.
"We were such big Bears fans," Kathy said. "My dad, his [father's] dad, sadly passed. They would have been so happy now. Every Sunday was watching games.
"I'm sure I'll be crying on Saturday. It's surreal. It still hasn't sunk in yet. I think when I see him in that jersey and all that, it'll be exciting. I wish our dads were here, but they'll be looking down."
While Schofield admired Bears stars as a kid, he's now in position to be a role model, especially for the high school players he works with every offseason at his alma mater. In fact, he was just at Sandburg High School in July.
"What's so special is knowing how many people him playing for the Bears is going to inspire," Kendall said. "Just a couple weeks ago he was coaching Sandburg football. It's really cool that you blink and two weeks later he's out here as a Chicago Bear, the team that all those kids root for and grow up wanting to be on, and he's showing them what's possible."