Montez Sweat stepped foot inside the Bears locker room, toured Halas Hall and met his new teammates and coaches for the first time on Nov. 1 – just 51 days ago.
Three days later – four days after being traded from the Commanders to the Bears – Sweat signed an extension that will keep him in Chicago for an additional four years. Less than 24 hours after that, Sweat debuted in the blue and orange, sparking a newfound confidence and hunger within the Bears defense — or as coach Matt Eberflus calls it, the 'Tez Effect.'
Fast forward to seven weeks after the trade, Bears defenders interact with Sweat in the locker room like they've known the 27-year-old their whole lives.
The immediate respect Sweat garnered from his new teammates originates with the product he has put on tape since entering the league in 2019. But the deep relationships he's already forming stem from what players have learned about who he is outside of football.
For cornerback Jaylon Johnson, he enjoys Sweat's sense of humor, adding "He's a funny guy. You can kind of laugh at his laugh at times."
Fellow defensive end DeMarcus Walker said he and Sweat are "just alike" and that "Tez [is] more of a laid-back person, goofy."
Rookie Gervon Dexter Sr. values Sweat's "real down-to-earth personality."
While each player has their own ways to describe Sweat, they all mean the same thing — Sweat is as much of a multi-dimensional person as he is an athlete.
Sweat's transition to a star in Chicago happened quickly. Fitting into an established locker room midseason appeared seamless for him. But he specifically attributes that immediate connection to the personalities of both himself and his teammates.
"It means a lot," Sweat told ChicagoBears.com. "[It] just speaks to my character and also the guys that we've got in the locker room, just real humble guys, real charismatic. They keep a tight-knit group here, a lot of chemistry. They just welcomed me into the fold and I've been appreciative ever since."
The calm yet magnetic personality Sweat exhibits — one that has caused veteran and rookie teammates alike to gravitate toward him — is a result of his upbringing in Stone Mountain, Ga.
"I was raised by my grandparents, so they're very old school," Sweat said, "so a lot of old-school habits and morals and principles that I was raised upon. Just 'yes or no, sir,' looking a man in the eyes when you talk to him and just being respectful and humble anytime you walk into a room."
While Sweat is proud of his character and how he was raised, the 6-foot-6, 262-pounder knows how to flip the switch once he gets to the line of scrimmage. But before Sweat became a game-wrecker and a nightmare for NFL quarterbacks, he was a three-star tight end recruit out of Stephenson High School who committed to Michigan State.
“I always wanted to be the guy hitting, not really being the one that was hit..." Montez Sweat
As a freshman, the Spartans gave Sweat the choice to play tight end or defensive end. He chose the latter.
Always considering himself as more of an athlete than a specific position player, Sweat "liked the fact that [defensive end] was an athletic position" and "gave you the freedom to run around the edge, run after the ball and bend, change direction." It allowed Sweat to be the playmaker he wanted to be.
"I always wanted to be the guy hitting, not really being the one that was hit," Sweat said. "And I looked at college football growing up, offensive guys used to flat line real big hits. So yeah, I wanted to be the one delivering the blow and not receive them."
Making that position change nine years ago has more than paid off for Sweat, and now, the Bears. Since arriving in Chicago, Sweat has totaled 6.0 sacks in six games, reaching 12.5 on the season – making him the sack leader in both Chicago and Washington.
Recording double-digit sacks for the first time in his career was a special moment for Sweat, who did so in his fifth game with the Bears against the Lions on Dec. 10.
"That's always been a goal of mine ever since I got in the league," Sweat said. "It's a cool thing to have on your resume, but I mean, I want to be a generational guy. I always want to be a Pro Bowler, I want to be an All-Pro and eventually be a Hall of Fame guy. But, yeah, that's a start."
While Sweat has greater aspirations beyond his sack numbers, he took the time to appreciate reaching the milestone in his fifth NFL season.
"It just brings you back all the way [to] your rookie year when you first got into the league," Sweat said, "and you make these big assumptions and you think you're ready to be that guy, you're ready to get those big numbers and stuff like that, and you get humbled. You've got to put some more work in over time. That's what I did, and now I'm here. But I mean, the work doesn't stop here. You've got to be consistent. I want to do it again next year and the year after that."
Through his short time in Chicago, Sweat has continuously proved why he quickly became a cornerstone of a talented Bears defense.
Still, there's one thing thing Sweat hasn't checked off his list: he doesn't have a patented sack celebration.
"A lot of guys on the team actually been getting on me about that," Sweat said. "They said I need to come up with one. So, I'm open to suggestions right now."
Johnson, Walker and Dexter all agree — Sweat needs to nail down something special.
"He definitely has to come up with something, especially if you're going to be back there all the time, you got to have a little signature something," Johnson said.
While Sweat knows it's the norm to have a specific celebration, he also enjoys having some variety or, as he calls it, "different flavors."
Sometimes it's a high five and chest bump with a teammate. Sometimes Sweat yells and pumps his fist. Other times he'll just walk around the field, not saying a word.
But his favorite so far came last weekend in Cleveland when he and Walker did a dance inspired by NBA small forward Dillon Brooks. Walker said the video of Brooks dancing came up on his YouTube algorithm before the game and he suggested it to Sweat while the defense was on the sideline.
"Everybody messing with it. It's a trend right now," Walker said. "It was good to just kind of catch on and just enjoy the moment."
For now, Sweat is good with letting his play speak for itself.
"Maybe we have a patented one next year," Sweat said. "Right now, I'm just having fun with my guys."