The selection of Jon Bostic by the Chicago Bears in the second round of this year's draft was met by much speculation. Yet after last week's performance in the preseason opener, Bostic, who is currently the club's starting middle linebacker, has already begun to change the minds of many critics. He finished the game with two tackles, one for loss, and an interception he returned for a touchdown.
Bear Report correspondent Beth Gorr caught up with Bostic after practice this week to discuss his training camp, the preseason opener and tomorrow's contest against the San Diego Chargers.
"Having that opportunity to play in my first ever NFL game last week was truly a dream come true. As I stood near the sidelines before the game began, I found myself thinking back to when I began playing football as a little kid. Being there, about to play that night, was the kind of circumstance I'd thought of so often when I was growing up. And best of all, my family was there in the stadium."
Was the reality as good as the dream?
"It was even better."
What were your thoughts as you grabbed the interception? Were you surprised?
"Actually, no thought was involved at all in the process. I've been playing football for a long time, and I credit that with the way my instincts kicked in.
"I never stood there thinking that I'd intercepted an NFL quarterback. Instead, I was so careful to tuck that ball away immediately then head down the field, running just as fast as I was able to go. I have to tell you that without the teammates around me, giving out all those key blocks, I'm not sure I would have made it into the end zone. At times during my run, the goal line looked distant. Having those guys around me made the difference.
"After I got the pick-six and made that run, I was really tired. Everything was kind of a blur. Today after practice I had a question about what I'd done with the ball once the play was over. That's when I realized I hadn't done a thing with it. It's probably still sitting there, hanging out in the end zone.
"When I've had a little more time to think about that, I'll be mad at not at least giving it to somebody to keep for me. But on the bright side, I'm hoping that is the first of many I'll have the opportunity to get.
"The game itself was relatively comfortable for me. Football is football. It's something we practice every day. I found the tempo was one I could keep up with and I felt good about the playbook. Everything unfolded as I had expected it to.
"One thing that did surprise me though was after watching the film when we returned to camp, some of my plays that I thought were pretty good were not executed as well as they should have been. There is no illusion in my mind that things are perfect. In fact, I saw quite a few things I'm going to be working on this week and in every week before the regular season begins.
"I have questions about my technique and execution that I plan to ask the coaches and the vets during this week's practice. Looking at the film, I saw some hesitation on my part where the offense got a few yards gain and I should have given them a few yards loss. But that's something that it shouldn't be too hard to clean up.
"My goal is to show noticeable progress from game to game, and from practice to practice. My speed was relatively good, but I could improve that. I have to develop a better sense of plays as they unfold. I'll figure it out eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later.
"Being a member of the Bears defense is such an honor. I've studied up on the team's history and on the achievements of their defensive stars. There's a long tradition of greatness there. It's incredibly exciting to wear the team's uniform on an NFL field. What I learned from my first game is that it's all about the guys you are playing with. To be out here every day with these great teammates, it just doesn't get any better than that.
"Our first home game is coming up next. We had that little scrimmage at Soldier Field and that was exciting, but this will be a whole other level of excitement. I'm definitely looking forward to it."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.