Last season, the Chicago Bears elected to keep five undrafted free agents on the final 53-man roster. With an influx of talent during the offseason, the youngsters weren't as lucky this year, as only two undrafted rookies made the cut.
The second is safety Jeremy Jones out of Wayne State. The team put rookie third rounder Brandon Hardin on IR, ending his season, which opened up a spot for Jones. Yet nothing was guaranteed and Jones had to play well in the preseason finale to make the club.
He did just that with an interception in the first quarter against the Cleveland Browns. When the axe started swinging the following day, Jones was one of the few left standing.
Bear Report correspondent Beth Gorr talks with Jones about being an official member of the Chicago Bears.
"I'm so excited, I can hardly talk. Making the team was a blessing. All I can think is pure thanks, pure thanks.
"When you go into camp the hope is always there that the coaches will think you are good enough but really you never know how it is going to turn out in the end. When cuts were coming last week, I tried to remain calm. I have a strong faith that things will turn out the way they should turn out, so I tried to let my anxiety go and trust in the Higher Power. That's the way I've lived my life so far and that approach has served me well.
"I relaxed as much as I could while I was waiting for the decision but when the call came and I knew I'd be staying here, I felt pure joy. It was indescribable. I've always believed in the power of a plan. If I relax and let things unfold, then good will come.
"There's so much pressure on rookies. It's difficult to imagine if you haven't been in the situation. Coming from Wayne State, which is a smaller school, then entering camp as an undrafted free agent adds to that pressure. You know that you have a limited time to perform and to show all that you are capable of doing out on the field.
"The way I handled things was to throw myself into my work. I spent every minute of every day reading the playbook, watching film, going to meetings and studying the veterans when I was on the sidelines. There are many ways to learn and I think I used just about all of them.
"I knew camp would be physically tough but I had no idea how mentally tough it would be. You're up early, you stay up late. You're exhausted mentally before you hit the practice field. I had no idea about that. Some days I was so out of it by the time for practice that I'd get what I call ‘brain freeze' during a play. The ball would be snapped and I'd just stand there or I'd make random, useless moves. Totally embarrassing.
"The sad part of last week was seeing friends leave the team. You get close to these guys when you go through a camp. I hope they catch on elsewhere and I'll be looking forward to seeing each of them across an NFL field someday.
"I'm not completely sure what the Bears saw in me that they liked but they saw something that would be a good fit for this team. What are my strengths? I think I have a good sense of the ball. I'm fast on the field and I anticipate well. I definitely enjoy the role of a defender. I learn things quickly and am able to put what I've learned into play.
"Getting the interception during the Browns game was wonderful. What a thrill. I didn't get to keep that ball, but in retrospect, I'm sorry I didn't ask for it after the play was over. Hopefully that will be the first of many grabs. This team stresses turnovers and takeaways, so I think it is extremely important as a rookie to demonstrate that you are effective doing that.
"The best part about where my life is right now is that I get to play football. I started playing at age 6 and from that point on, no other sport interested me as much as this one does. And to have football as a job? It doesn't get better than that.
"To succeed at this level, you have to love the game. If you ask the guys in this locker room if they have a passion for the game, I'm certain that each one would say ‘yes.' There is a tremendous amount of dedication involved. You need to be willing to give it your all every day. If a player doesn't love the game, then what's the point? You'd be miserable and probably not very good at your job.
"The first regular season game is coming up. I'm trying not to get overly excited but it will be fun. The Colts look to be a challenging team even though they have a rookie quarterback. We're working on the game plan this week so that will be a new experience for me. My family will be there and my friends will watch on TV. It doesn't get any better than that."
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.