The past five weeks saw David Montgomery go from the Bears starting running back to the crucial cog in the offense's identity.
At 23 years old and finishing his second professional season, Montgomery has morphed from quiet rookie to vocal leader.
The coaching staff saw Montgomery as a future leader while scouting him at Iowa State. Last season, running backs coach Charles London believed Montgomery was willing to lead, but needed to build up trust with his teammates.
"I think it's hard at times to come in as a rookie and lead," said London. "Last year, it was a little bit difficult for him, but as he's gotten a little more comfortable and his personality has come out a little bit, he's taken a leadership role in the offense, which is good to see. He's rallying guys, and guys are feeding off him."
The Bears traded up to select Montgomery in the 2019 draft, believing that the running back, coming off back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons at Iowa State, would be the all-purpose back needed for coach Matt Nagy's offense.
"When we were scouting him coming out of college," said London, "he had really, really good hands, and he could run the whole route tree out of the backfield. We thought he could run some routes that receivers run. He just continues to work on it every day."
London praised Montgomery's constant effort to make himself a bigger factor in the passing game.
"After practice, between periods of practice, he's always working with the quarterbacks, trying to perfect his routes," said London. "Whether it's a route out of the backfield or a route further down the field, he works on it every day with the quarterbacks."
London believes the extra work has led Bears quarterbacks to trust Montgomery more as a receiving option. This season, Montgomery has recorded 45 catches for 375 yards and two touchdowns.
One area where college scouts doubted Montgomery was his breakaway speed. The pre-draft consensus on Montgomery was that he would be a power back but would be unable to break big plays against NFL competition.
That perceived deficiency allowed Montgomery to last until the third round. However, the past few weeks have shown those concerns to be overblown, as Montgomery recorded carries of 57 and 80 yards.
"He knows it was a knock on him coming out," said London. "He knows that. He'll be the first to tell you on one of those touchdown runs, he hit 20 miles an hour. So he's definitely aware of it. He does a great job of working at it. In practice, he's finishing 30, 40, 50 yards down the field, and it's really just working on his long speed, working on breaking runs."
Scouting reports may have been wrong initially, but Montgomery entered the year speaking about his improved diet and leaner physique. Around the time of the Week 11 bye, the running back converted to a vegan lifestyle.
The hard work paid off when Montgomery hit a new milestone on Sunday: The second-year running back became the first 1,000-yard rusher in the Matt Nagy era. London was excited for Montgomery but emphasized that the accomplishment did not belong to the running back alone.
"It is a total team effort," said London. "Obviously, the line's doing a great job. We've had some continuity there the last few weeks, and that's really helped us in the run game. They do a great job, and [quarterback Mitchell Trubisky] does a great job of getting us in the right play. He's got several great blocks from the receivers downfield. The tight ends are doing a great job. So it's a team effort. The other guys were happy for him."