LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Cole Kmet had never caught a pass from Tyson Bagent until joint practices in Indianapolis.
Cue Calvin Harris and Dua Lipa because one pass is all it takes.
Bagent had the Bears tight end run a POW route in individual work but told Kmet he would throw it a bit shallower than normal. Sure enough, the UDFA put it in the exact place he told Kmet it would be.
"He kinda indicated, ‘Hey, I’m gonna throw it right at this spot,’ and it was right on the money," Kmet said Wednesday at Halas Hall. "He told me where to run the route, how to run it, and he was on point with it.
"Starting at that point and on, I just really took notice of it."
That one rep with Kmet might perfectly illustrate Bagent's unlikely August rise from undrafted rookie out of Shepherd University to potentially QB2 when the Bears kick off the season. Few knew exactly what he could achieve in four short months, but Bagent had a plan, and his attempt to do the improbable was on the money.
“I think we’ve seen it every day since his rookie minicamp, just his poise," Bears assistant general manager Ian Cunningham said of Bagent on Wednesday. "He’s got this moxie, he has this confidence about him. I remember walking out of the tunnel with him against Tennessee and it was like, he’s been here before. Right? And he’s showed it. He’s displayed it ever since he’s been here and then in game exposure, his accuracy, decision-making, his poise, we saw what he was able to do with his legs. I think the kid’s got a bright future.”
That future, at least for now, will be in Chicago.
On Sunday, Bagent's rise from UDFA to NFL quarterback became complete when the Bears released backup quarterback P.J. Walker, signaling that Bagent had secured a roster spot and potentially won the QB2 job.
"[General manager Ryan Poles] texted me just telling me, 'Congratulations. Be an asset to Justin. Stay focused. Stay ready,'" Bagent said Wednesday. "Because you know the season’s so long, once again you never know what could happen, so that’s kinda what my goal is. Just be an asset to the team, help in any way that I can, and just be ready for any situation.
"I think looking back on it, thinking about the odds, that is pretty crazy," Bagent later said of his unlikely rise. "But like I said, this is just something that always made sense to me. Really, I just took to it as every single day trying to put my best foot forward, trying to give it my all, trying to execute at the highest level that I know how to. Thankfully enough that all has paid off so far."
The Bears have not yet decided if Bagent will be the Bears' backup quarterback when the season opens against the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 10 at Soldier Field. Bagent and Justin Fields are currently the only two quarterbacks on the roster, but the Bears hope to bring Nathan Peterman back either on the practice squad or as a member of the 53-man roster.
Bagent electrified during the Bears' second preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts and was a mixed bag during the preseason finale against the Buffalo Bills.
Asking a kid just months removed from playing Division II college football -- even one who is the NCAA's all-time passing touchdowns leader -- to be ready to take a live NFL snap in 11 days should Fields go down is a tall task.
But Bagent has beaten the odds before. It's not a role he takes likely. He understands the immense workload that comes with being the backup quarterback to Fields. It's not just digesting the playbook, the weekly scheme adjustments, and the gameplan wrinkles. It's being a sounding board for Fields on the sideline and in the meeting rooms.
That's all important.
But in the end, the main question asked of Bagent will be: Can the Bears count on him to execute the offense and perhaps win games if Fields is unavailable?
They might be surveying all options, but there's a good chance Bagent is their best avenue.
Call it intangibles, moxie, an aura, whatever. There's just something about him. He oozes confidence but isn't arrogant. He's self-aware, understanding why he has become such a big story because the mountain he traversed was uncharacteristically steep. But he also doesn't let where he came from put him in a box or shrink the confidence that helped him create a backup quarterback competition the Bears didn't see coming.
You see some things you can't quantify.
"You go out there, and it’s still 11 on 11, the field is the same size, you’re still throwing and running the football," Bagent said. "So I think if you let that get to you, if you look at the bright lights and the craziness that’s going on, it could easily overwhelm you. And I know if I get overwhelmed with all of the mental things that are going on as a quarterback in this league, that could easily cause the offense to start looking crazy and not as effective. So I think that, and then also just being able to understand that football is just something that I do, so no matter what level it is, it’s just something I do, and then when you’re off the field, everybody is the same to me. I’m just trying to keep that mindset, keep the main thing the main thing, and I feel like that has helped me have that moxie or aura that people are talking about."
The Bears like Peterman and view him as a valuable member of the quarterback room. That value doesn't extend to Sundays. The league knows what Nathan Peterman is and what he isn't.
Bagent's story is an empty canvas—credit to the Bears for cutting Walker and going the unlikely route. But credit is due for hard choices, and it doesn't seem like much hand-wringing was involved with this one.
Listen to Tyson Bagent talk, watch him work, hear his teammates gush about him, and it's easy to see why the Bears might end up feeling comfortable with him being Option B behind Fields.
Just because someone has played in the league with minimal to zero tangible success doesn't make them a better option on Sundays.
What makes Bagent the Bears' best QB2 choice is what got him to where he currently resides: A blend of confidence, talent, work ethic, intelligence, belief, and an aura that gives teammates the utmost confidence that Bagent will get the job done.
"I feel like any time I get the game plan, whatever that game plan is, it will get studied," Bagent said when asked if he was confident he could step in and play if needed. "It will be understood. And I will put my best foot forward, which I’ve been trying my best to show so far through training camp and the preseason."
The Bears can turn over every rock and look in every crevice for a backup quarterback who gives them a better chance to win if called on than Bagent. But I'm not sure they'll find one. It's not Peterman, Colt McCoy, or Carson Wentz.
It's the guy no one saw coming except pro scouting director Jeff King and area scout Tom Bradway. The guy who was born to play quarterback and has considered himself one since the age of six. The kid from Martinsburg, West Virginia, who crowbarred open the door to a roster spot before kicking it off the hinges.
If Justin Fields goes down for any amount of time, the Bears will be at DEFCON 1. No veteran retread will be able to save them or keep them afloat until No. 1 returns. But Bagent, the kid whose it factor wiped out Walker and has opened eyes throughout the corridors of Halas Hall, just might.
The Bears like to trumpet that they don't put a ceiling on any of their players. They should follow their own credo when doing their due diligence in their search for QB2.
It sure seems like he's already in the building. All that's left is the formal title.