Sanborn excited for chance to leave mark on Bears-Packers rivalry


LAKE FOREST – Like most Bears fans, Jack Sanborn has vivid memories of the Green Bay Packers rivalry. The 2010 NFC Championship Game loss, most notably B.J. Raji’s pick-six of Caleb Hanie, sticks out.

Unlike most Bears fans, Sanborn will have a chance to leave his own mark on the storied rivalry.

“It’s kind of wild!” Sanborn told NBC Sports Chicago as he and the Bears prepare to face the Packers on “Sunday Night Football.” “It is wild. Especially, going to Lambeau. It’s going to be really neat. Definitely a moment that I’m going to take. But at the same time, I feel like I have a good awareness to know that I’ve got a job to do and I’m not there as a fan. Not there to just enjoy the moment. We got a game to play.”

Sanborn, an undrafted rookie out of Wisconsin and Lake Zurich native, made his NFL debut last Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers with his mom and brother in attendance.

A star tackling machine at Wisconsin, Sanborn has game planned for a number of talented quarterbacks in his career, including his now-teammate Justin Fields and Justin Herbert.

But the task he and the Bears’ defense have in stopping Aaron Rodgers this Sunday differs from anything the rookie has prepared for in his young football career.

“It’s definitely different than last year,” Sanborn said, laughing. “I think that’s one of the big things. But at the same time, it’s what you want. This is what you always want to do. Go up against the best. It’s exciting. I can’t wait for Sunday and to make things happen.”

After making the Bears’ 53-man roster in training camp with hard work and lessons from veteran linebackers Roquan Smith and Nicholas Morrow, Sanborn now must start climbing the depth chart. He figures to project as a SAM linebacker in head coach Matt Eberflus’ defense, a spot currently occupied by Matt Adams.

The 22-year-old first got his coaches’ attention during the Bears’ preseason opener against the Chiefs when he notched an interception and a fumble recovery against the Kansas City Chiefs.

“When guys make plays, when they make plays in games and they’re instinctual and they make plays like that, I think that you always take a look at those guys,” Eberflus said of Sanborn. “Because when you hit the ball and you do things that change football games, you give guys a chance.”

No matter where he takes the field Sunday night in Green Bay, Sanborn is already envisioning making a play that flips the game in Green Bay to snap the Packers’ six-game winning streak in the rivalry.

“I think visualizing is important,” Sanborn said. “I think that’s different for everybody in how they prepare. How somebody visualizes something versus how another guy visualizes something. But it’s definitely a big part of understanding and putting yourself in that moment so then it doesn’t shock you when it happens.”

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If the universe gives Sanborn a chance to etch his name in Bears-Packers history Sunday, he’ll be ready to pounce on his opportunity. He understands just how much it means when these two teams meet.

“Part of what makes football and sports in general amazing, is the rivalries that are created and the history that is formed and also with the cities and the states,” Sanborn said. “That’s what sports is all about.”

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