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Mooney driven to make impact as Bears rookie


Receiver Darnell Mooney contributed immediately as a freshman at Tulane in 2016 after quickly gaining a firm grasp of the playbook.

Determined to make a similar impact as a Bears rookie in 2020, the fifth-round draft pick has been glued to his iPad, fully immersing himself in the offensive scheme.

"It's just the understanding of football, the concepts of routes and how they go together, and just studying your playbook," Mooney told "It takes time to learn things. If you want to do good in math, you'll take time to study math. If you take time to study your plays, you'll be fine."

With Halas Hall closed due to the coronavirus, the Bears have been conducting their offseason program solely on a virtual basis. As a result, Mooney has been unable to transfer what he's learned onto the practice field with his new teammates, but the speedy receiver has discovered a unique way to do that on his own on a turf field near his home in New Orleans.

"I record myself saying plays, all the plays we have installed," Mooney said. "I have my headphones in and I'll go to a field and act like I'm in a huddle and hear the play call and just line up and go."

Mooney does more than just run routes during his daily workouts. He also catches passes from his quarterback at Gadsden High School in Alabama, Ahmad DeRamus, who spent the last four years playing at Tuskegee University.

"It's helping me extremely," Mooney said. "I get to catch balls. It feels very good now, just having the ball in my hands every day."

When the Bears traded up in the fifth round to draft Mooney, they knew they were landing a fast and productive receiver with an excellent work ethic. The 5-11, 174-pounder, who was timed at a blazing 4.38 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine, was a four-year starter at Tulane, the same school that produced Bears star running back Matt Forte.

In 49 career games with the Green Wave, Mooney caught 151 passes for 2,529 yards and 19 touchdowns. He had a breakout junior season in 2018, catching 48 passes for 993 yards and eight TDs. Mooney followed last year with 45 receptions for 670 yards and five touchdowns.

Appearing on a recent episode of the Bears All-Access radio show on WSCR-AM 670, Tulane coach Willie Fritz revealed that Mooney never missed a class, tutoring appointment, study hall or workout during four years at the school.

"This guy is as dependable as you could possibly get," Fritz said. "He did a fantastic job for us and it was a pleasure to coach him."

Mooney was among the first players Fritz recruited and signed after being hired by Tulane in 2016. The receiver quickly convinced Fritz that he could be counted on to make plays, a belief that Mooney is eager to instill in Bears coaches.

"I'm ready to get rolling," Mooney said. "You can't get on the field unless you get the coaches to trust you, so I'm just ready to get everybody to trust me."

With the 173rd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Bears select WR Darnell Mooney