Chicago Bears cornerback Demontre Hurst sat near his locker slowly removing the tape from his ankles, completely oblivious to the group of reporters gathering around him. When he looked up, he seemed surprised that any media members were interested in what he had to say.
"You're here for me?" Hurst laughed. "Sorry about that. I didn't realize anybody cared what I had to say. I guess I'd better pay attention after the games form now on. I thought you were all here waiting for somebody else."
If Hurst keeps playing like he did against the Browns, he'd better get used to giving post-game interviews. The undrafted rookie out of Oklahoma led the team in the preseason finale with seven tackles and an interception, and functioned as a force on the field during his extended playing time.
"Did I show then what I needed to show tonight? That much I don't know," Hurst said. "I do know that I went out there intending to give the game 110 percent of my efforts. I think I was productive. There is always room for improvement, especially when you are a rookie. But I did do most of what I'd hoped to do out there."
When asked if he felt pressure as an undrafted player, Hurst was quick to respond:
"I think it is the same for all of the rookies, drafted or undrafted. We need to show that we have the poise to perform, that we feel comfortable in a game-day situation."
How comfortable did Hurst feel?
"Very. I was surprised how at home I felt. Every preseason game has been a learning experience. You have to get accustomed to the speed and the intensity of play. Believe me, its very different from college ball even when you play for a big program. Every rookie here has a choice when his number is called. You can go out there and be nervous which tends to end in making mistakes, or you can relax as much as possible and be productive. I chose to relax."
Along with the rest of the bubble players, Hurst knew last night's game was his last chance to prove to the coaching staff that he deserves a roster spot or, at the very least, a place on the practice squad.
"It's the last preseason game, you know? It's right before final cuts. If there is anytime to shine, this would be it," he said. "But the amazing thing was how much fun it was. Sure there was pressure but also a great deal of enjoyment just having the opportunity. So few guys make it to this level. I'm determined not to think too far ahead but to enjoy every moment I am out there."
Hurst has shown steady progression throughout training camp and the preseason. He said his quick development has been due in large part to watching two All-Pro cornerback, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, every day in practice.
"Those guys have spent so much time with me during camp, helping me refine my skills," he said. "I can't thank them enough. I couldn't have found better role models than these two accomplished players. I'm picking up so much from all of these vets."
Hurst is battling with fellow undrafted rookie C.J. Wilson for the team's sixth cornerback spot, assuming they keep six, as well as a place on the practice squad. He demonstrated last night that he's a player with high upside who could be a contributor down the line.
"I was told I'd get a lot of on field time tonight so I was prepared," said Hurst. "I was fortunate enough to get a takeaway in the third play of the game. Our coaches stress that on a daily basis. It's all about turnovers and takeaways for this defense. I saw the opportunity and I took it. It was a lot of fun, that's for sure. I was fortunate that it worked out the way I hoped that it would."
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.