Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
The Bears stoked the dreams of at least two rookies during a workout for players with local ties Saturday at Halas Hall.
Corbin Bryant of Chicago and
Andre Holmes of Hoffman Estates — both Bears fans — couldn’t contain their excitement Saturday.
“It was a dream,” said Holmes, a receiver who starred at Hillsdale College in Michigan. “It was crazy because they put us in a rookie locker room and had our names up, and they gave us a practice jersey and Bears shorts.”
Added Bryant, “It was a humbling experience, but a fun experience also.”
Unlike Holmes, Bryant hasn’t ventured very far from home. After starring at Morgan Park, Bryant earned a scholarship to Northwestern and started all 13 games in each of his final two seasons at defensive tackle.
Neither player is projected as a first-round pick, yet both have been working out and working hard to impress NFL coaches and scouts to get selected in the NFL draft next week.
And given their positions and the Bears’ needs, Bryant and Holmes well might fulfill dreams.
“My mind-set is, I would be grateful to play on any team,” Holmes said. “But if it was the Bears — my hometown team, the one I grew up watching — that would be amazing.”
Both players have been training hard for this opportunity, Bryant at TCBOOST in Northbrook and
Holmes with Athletic Edge in Bradenton, Fla.
Each has a chip on his shoulder, Bryant because he wasn’t invited to the NFL combine in Indianapolis and Holmes because he played at a Division II school.
Yet Bryant and Holmes have been encouraged by the interest they’ve drawn from some of the NFL’s top teams.
The Bears had 30 players with
local ties at Halas Hall on Saturday, giving them physicals and putting them through positional drills.
Bryant and Holmes have had special workouts with more captive audiences, too.
Both had private workouts, at their respective schools, with the New England Patriots. One of the NFL’s best teams at drafting and developing players, the Patriots emphasized testing the players’ knowledge of the game and their positions.
Bryant also was invited to visit with the AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers. He flew to Pittsburgh, took a physical, then met with coaches, including Mike Tomlin.
“It’s always nice to get a look from all these class organizations in the NFL,” Bryant said.
Holmes was invited to visit with the Dallas Cowboys a few weeks ago. When he arrived at Cowboys Stadium, he watched his name scroll across the big screen.
He ate at one of the stadium’s suites, met owner Jerry Jones and talked football with one of the team’s coaches.
But the highlight might have been meeting Michael Irvin.
“You think of the top receivers to ever play, you think of Jerry Rice and Michael Irvin, in my mind,”
With the draft approaching, Bryant and Holmes are trying to stay in shape and not get anxious about the process. For instance, Bryant said he doesn’t read too much into what teams have expressed an interest in him.
“People meet with a lot of teams, and the teams they didn’t end up meeting with sometimes pick them,” Bryant said. “So you always have to be ready to go wherever.”
Added Holmes, “I know I’m going to have to get better, but I feel I can make an impact on the field.”