In a typical year, the Bears conduct “Rookie Rallies” in which their entire rookie class visits a children’s hospital and conducts a youth football clinic.
While the coronavirus made that impossible this year, the rookies still reached out to the community this week, participating in two interactive Zoom video sessions.
The entire rookie class spoke virtually to “I Grow Chicago” staff and members of the Englewood community Wednesday, and then chatted with patients and families at Advocate Children’s Hospitals from their Park Ridge and Oak Lawn locations Thursday.
I Grow Chicago’s mission is to “grow Englewood from surviving to thriving through community connection, skill building and opportunity.”
Bears Care recently donated $10,000 to I Grow Chicago for relief efforts in the Englewood community. Of the approximately 3,000 people I Grow Chicago serves, 62 percent don’t have reliable Internet access, 59 percent are food insecure and 41 percent don’t have health insurance.
During Wednesday’s video session, the rookies and members of the I Grow Chicago community, including a local police officer, spoke about the challenges the coronavirus pandemic has presented as well as relationships between police and the Black community.
The rookies were asked how they’re taking care of their mental health during what’s been a difficult several months.
“Basically, what I’ve been trying to do is just control what I can control,” said receiver Ahmad Wagner, an undrafted free agent from Kentucky. “This COVID-19 and everything is something that I can’t control and something that is terrible obviously. Everything going on in the world is terrible, but for me myself, I have to control what I can control and try not to let those things bother me as much as I can. I’m heavy in my faith and I lean on my family just to guide me, comfort me, whatever I need.”
Other rookies are also leaning on their families.
“I wasn’t really able to see my family members in college,” said linebacker Keandre Jones, an undrafted free agent from Maryland. “So just being back home, [I’m] talking to them about the problems that are going on in today’s society, in today’s world, just speaking about issues that we didn’t talk about as a family in the last couple of years and catching up with them and kind of like getting back on the same page with them too. And being close back with my mom.”
“I just feel like you’ve got to think of the positive stuff,” said tackle Lachavious Simmons, a seventh-round pick from Tennessee State. “Don’t think about the negative, like what the coronavirus is doing and all that. Just think about the positive like you being around your kids, you being around your family members that you won’t always see, or you got to celebrate somebody’s birthday who normally you won’t be around for. So I just take it and just think about the positive.”
On Thursday, the Bears rookies spoke virtually with groups of young patients being treated at two Advocate Children’s Hospitals. The kids asked the players about their favorite foods, what stadium they’re most excited to play in, where they went to college, their favorite superheroes and more.
The kids also inquired about what jobs the rookies would be doing if they weren’t playing football.
“I’d stick in the sports world,” said tight end Cole Kmet, a second-round pick from Notre Dame. “I’d try to play golf or be a baseball player, one of those two.”
Simmons said he’d also be a baseball player—or a certified welder. Wagner and receiver Darnell Mooney, a fifth-round pick from Tulane, both said that they would be chefs.
Asked to name his favorite thing about playing for the Bears, tight end Darion Clark said: “The pride behind the Bears and their fans and the organization.”
“I just notice a lot of places I go, I meet Bears fans,” said the undrafted free agent from USC. “If I have a t-shirt or something on, I hear ‘Bear Down’ a lot. So I just think it’s the pride behind being a part of the organization.”
Kicker Ramiz Ahmed added that one of the first NFL games he ever attended was a Bears game at Soldier Field with his friends “so it’s kind of crazy to be on the team that you went and saw,” he said.