LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- If you want to learn something about Bears backup quarterback Tyson Bagent, the first thing is that he's not looking for shortcuts to success. He doesn't choose the path of least resistance or the steepest climb uphill, just the one with the most direct route to where he wants to go.
The undrafted rookie from Division II Shepherd University arrived at Bears' rookie minicamp and immediately chose that path. Most rookies might have come in, completed passes, and hoped for a cup of NFL coffee. But not Bagent. He spoke with quarterback coach Andrew Janocko and set out to learn the necessary footwork to run the Bears offense. It caused errant passes and a lot of incompletions on Day 1 minicamp. But Bagent got better on Day 2, and his decision to do it the Bears' way instead of relying on what helped him set records at Shepherd set him up for an unlikely training camp rise to the 53-man roster.
“I figured if I wanted to be on the Bears, I should probably do what the quarterback coach wants and the footwork that he’s telling me fits the system the best," Bagent told NBC Sports Chicago. "Kind of just like anything, you kind of never want to avoid anything because eventually it’s going to circle back and bite you in the ass. Kind of nip it in the bud right there."
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Bagent spent OTAs and the summer break mastering the footwork so he could arrive at training camp comfortable to focus on the Bears' lengthy playbook and different cadences.
Bagent stacked good days on good days and eventually showed the Bears enough to allow them to cut veteran backup P.J. Walker, a free-agent addition with guaranteed money, and keep him on the 53-man roster behind Justin Fields and Nathan Peterman.
The Martinsburg, West Virginia native has been the Bears' emergency quarterback through each of the season's first three weeks. With training camp in the books, Bagent's NFL QB education has reached a different stage as he learns the ins and outs of weekly preparation at the highest level.
While Bagent has spent his first three NFL Sundays on the sideline, he knows how quickly things can change. Staying ready is the only thing on his mind. He works to perfect things during the week so his game can flow freely on Sunday if he's called on.
“I kind of, to an extent, put a burden on myself to get it known before I even allow myself to enjoy anything outside of this," Bagent said of learning the weekly gameplan and his exhaustive studying. "Unless I want to be miserable, I usually get that stuff done Wednesday through Friday, so Saturday I can kind of just get my heart and soul ready to go out there on Sunday.”
The excitement around Bagent was at a fever pitch during his meteoric training camp rise that included an impressive dissection of the Indianapolis Colts in the second preseason game. Bagent admitted he could feel people watching and talking about him differently after that game.
An undrafted rookie from a D-II school isn't supposed to look as poised and confident as Bagent did in the preseason. He was supposed to be overwhelmed. The game was supposed to move too fast for him.
It didn't in the preseason, and it landed Bagent on the Bears' roster as a developmental quarterback with a history of throwing touchdowns and a desire to maximize his gifts.
"He studies like a pro," Janocko said. "He mimics everybody in the room. He's working. He's developing. He's figuring it out. At the end of the day, he loves ball so when you have a guy that loves ball, there's a hunger to develop. You see it every day. You see the growth. You hear him talking about football and that assures you that he's coming along as you hope."
Bagent learns by watching Fields and Peterman go about their daily NFL grinds. He takes mental notes of how they handle certain situations and tries to mold the best of what they do with what makes him comfortable.
That's another thing about Tyson Bagent. He's not trying to be someone else. He knows he's good enough.
The Bears' offense is notoriously complex. You can drown in all of its intricacies if you aren't careful. Bagent braved the worst of the storm -- training camp and preseason with the entire playbook open. Now, he just has to hone in on the weekly details and not worry about knowing every single thing about the Bears' vast system.
That sharpened focus has helped Bagent feel more like himself when he steps on the field.
“Night and day," Bagent said of how different he feels now. "Just because with all the play calls and stuff you could pretty much paralyze yourself there at the line of scrimmage with all those thoughts. Now, being able to have all those thoughts, my mind Is wrapped around them, I’m also able to just play a lot more like myself and how I did throughout college and throughout my career.”
Bagent's NFL QB education is still in its infancy. He learns new things daily and makes mistakes he won't make again. The Bears see potential in him. The makeup, the arm talent, the hunger, and the moxie all point toward possibility.
For Tyson Bagent, it's all about trusting himself, finding that inner strength, and drawing it to the surface as he picks the path that's likely to lead to optimal success.
“Your mind can take way more than you think," Bagent said when asked what he has learned about himself since arriving at Halas Hall. "There’s no end to the amount you can learn.”