Long-snapper Patrick Scales will play in his 100th regular season game as a member of the Bears Sunday when the Eagles visit Soldier Field.
It's an impressive achievement for anyone, but it's even more special for Scales given the perseverance he showed while chasing a lifelong dream that at times seemed unattainable.
Undrafted out of Utah State in 2011, Scales was cut five times by four teams over three years before finally playing in his first NFL regular-season game with the Ravens Dec. 21, 2014.
"It is a big accomplishment," Scales said. "I'm very proud of it, especially the way my career started. It took me three-and-a-half years to make a team. So to play 100 games is a big deal for me and I'm real proud of it."
Scales signed with the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2011 but failed to make their 53-man roster. He rejoined Baltimore in 2012 but again was waived during final cuts. In 2013, Scales spent a few months with the Jets during the offseason, then signed with the Dolphins but was waived before the season.
Unable to secure an NFL roster spot, Scales spent his first three years out of college selling DirecTV subscriptions in Sam's Club and Best Buy stores, peddling cell phones in a mall and working at Cabella's as well as a logistics company.
During that time, he kept his long-snapping skills sharp by attending camps and combines for specialists and by snapping into a net his in-laws had purchased for him. He'd jam the net into the backseat of his Honda Accord and take it to a local high school football field in Texas to work out.
Scales—who had workouts with the Bengals, Colts, Chiefs, Patriots and Saints without being signed—nearly gave up on his dream to play in the NFL in 2013.
"I told my wife (Brandie) when I first started to give me two years," Scales said. "If I don't make it in two years, then I'll find a real job and we'll figure it out from there. At the two-year mark, I was a man of my word. I said: 'I'm done. I'm frustrated with it. I feel like I'm good enough and I'm not getting the right opportunity. Or maybe I'm not good enough, I don't know,' but I felt that I was. So for about four months I was quote-unquote done with football, and then the Jets called right before training camp. I told her about it and she said, 'you have to go.' I did the tryout, got signed, went to training camp and just kept chasing it."
“Every day I show up, I’m the happiest guy in the building because it took me three-and-a-half years to get here, and I realize how lucky and blessed I am to be here.” Bears long-snapper Patrick Scales
Scales credits Brandie with helping him persevere throughout his journey.
"My wife was a rock for me because there were so many highs and lows, and she just kept my head level and believed in me the whole time," Scales said. "I'm so grateful to have had her by my side the entire time."
"He never gave up on himself," Brandie said. "He's always been his biggest believer. He's not cocky at all. He's the most humble person ever. But he always said, 'I just need to impress one person.' And that was the thing that kept him going. He was like, 'I just need to impress one coach, one scout, I have to change one person's mind.' He used that as motivation."
The opportunity that Scales had been waiting for finally came late in the 2014 season. After Ravens long-snapper Kevin McDermott was placed on injured reserve, Scales signed Dec. 18 and made his NFL debut three days later. He then played in Baltimore's regular season finale and two playoff contests.
Scales signed with the Bears midway through the 2015 season and has played for them ever since, though he missed the entire 2017 campaign with a torn ACL he sustained in a preseason game. He is currently the longest tenured player on the Bears roster and is extremely grateful, given his background, to play in his 100th game with the storied franchise.
"It's everything," said the 34-year-old. "Every day I show up, I'm the happiest guy in the building because it took me three-and-a-half years to get here, and I realize how lucky and blessed I am to be here. That's why I'm always smiling, I'm always joking, because I know in the blink of a second it could be gone."
Brandie will also have a big grin on her face Sunday, cheering from the Soldier Field stands as her husband reaches a milestone that once seemed impossible.
"It's really cool," she said. "It honestly takes my breath away. It took us so long to get here, and this is something I never thought we would see. There were times we didn't think we would see a regular season game or a postseason game or 10 games. So it's so special. It's something that we never take for granted. Every single game I sit there, I just have to pinch myself because I can't believe this is our life."