Everyone loves to root for the underdog, and Matt Nagy is no different. But the first-year Bears coach has a special reason.
Having played quarterback at Delaware and later for six seasons in the Arena Football League, Nagy sees himself in many of the unheralded prospects who are participating in this weekend’s Bears rookie minicamp on a tryout basis.
“It hits a spot with me because I felt like I was one of those guys that just wasn’t tall enough, wasn’t fast enough, maybe not quite strong enough, didn’t go to that big school,” Nagy said. “I went to a I-AA school. So I refuse to let somebody slip by because of that. It’s not going to happen with me and I’m going to make sure that our staff understands that. There are kids in the Walter Payton Center that practiced today that are going to get extra special attention because they’re not that guy. I can promise you that.”
Nagy has urged all 70 prospects at the rookie minicamp to make the most of their opportunity by giving 100 percent effort.
“The biggest thing is to have no regrets,” Nagy said. “I don’t care if you were drafted, I don’t care if you were a free agent, when you’re out here for these next three days leave it all out there on the field.
“Some guys may never put shoulder pads on again. They may never put a helmet on again. They may be in a quote-unquote real job in a few weeks. To the others, it’s an interesting journey. There’s guys that get bounced that don’t make it. There’s guys that get sent home. There’s guys that are motivated by it and there’s ones that give up on it. So the biggest thing is no regrets.”
Of the 70 players at rookie minicamp, eight veterans and 35 rookies are unsigned, hoping to earn a contract.
“There’s different reasons why guys come back to this situation,” Nagy said. “Maybe they had an injury. You get a guy that had injury a few years ago and for whatever reason he’s able to come back to these tryouts. You just never know. You’re just trying to make sure you see through everything and you don’t let anything slip through the cracks. That’s what we’re doing.
“There are 70 guys out there right now. That’s a lot of numbers, but the good thing for us is that it allows us to be able to put things on tape, put plays on tape, give guys reps and then we don’t have to worry as much with the conditioning side because when you have limited numbers, you can’t do all that.
“[General manager] Ryan [Pace] has done a good job of getting these guys in here. You never know when somebody jumps out at you and that’s an advantage we want to take.”
One of the veteran tryout players is quarterback Aaron Murray, who was with the Chiefs in 2014-2015 when Nagy was his position coach.
Murray spent parts of the 2016 season on the practice squad with the Cardinals and Eagles and some of the 2017 offseason with the Rams.
“Aaron's a great kid and he's looking to get this thing back up and going again,” Nagy said. “Just him knowing the offense and getting in and out of the huddle is a huge advantage.
“You see him come into the huddle and give little nuances to the plays and little reminders and gadgets to the guys of, ‘Hey, remember this, remember that,’ and then he says the play. So that’s a benefit to those guys that are in there with him.”