By Chris Emma–
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) — You probably haven’t heard Cameron Meredith’s name, but that’s OK for now.
In fact, he loves it.
“It’s good they don’t know me,” Meredith said Wednesday. “It’ll be a big surprise when I go out and make a big play.”
Wednesday was a bad day at Halas Hall. Kevin White, the Bears’ first-round pick in 2015, was placed on injured reserve with a fractured fibula caused by a severe left ankle sprain. White had missed his entire rookie season, working his way back for this year. It was a long, grueling process.
Barring some good fortunes in the second opinions, White will miss the remainder of this season.
Bears coach John Fox constantly speaks of “next man up” for his team. In this cast, that next man is Meredith, who joined the team as an undrafted free agent in 2015 after originally being a quarterback at Illinois State.
It’s Meredith being counted on to play a key role in this Bears offense, and Fox was quick to express his faith in the 24-year-old receiver as he looked past White’s injury.
“He’s a guy we have confidence in,” Fox said.
Meredith has just 17 catches in 13 career games, but he should get more targets moving forward. The Bears are drawn to his abilities, which keep improving. Receivers coach Curtis Johnson has helped Meredith improve at his relatively new position.
General manager Ryan Pace echoed his belief in Meredith when meeting with reporters Wednesday to discuss the loss of White, his first draft choice in Chicago.
No teammate ever wants to see their brother go down, but at the same time, there’s no time to be down. Meredith must be ready for his moment.
“Any opportunity is a great opportunity,” Meredith said. “I’m just looking forward to the experience, to continue growing and making plays.”
Meredith stands at 6-foot-3 and boasts good speed, similar traits to White. His rise to this position was much different.
Meredith was a terrific quarterback in high school but sat for his first three seasons at Illinois State. Coach Brock Spack moved Meredith to receiver his senior year, and he flourished.
“I’m looking to hopefully continue this story,” Meredith said. “It’s been a long journey, but I’m still working.”
During that short time, Spack saw that he had something at receiver in Meredith. Scouts saw it, too, with Meredith reaching their radars in the pre-draft process. He waited out the field and came up empty, instead landing with the Bears as a free agent.
When Meredith made the Bears’ roster last September, Spack felt something good was coming.
“I don’t think he’s really reached his full potential, and I think (the Bears) know that,” Spack said then. “He’s going to get better — quite a bit better.”
The Bears believed so, too. They may soon confirm those beliefs.
Teammates cracked jokes Wednesday when a media herd approached Meredith’s locker — the cameras, microphones and lights shining in his face. Casual fans don’t know Meredith’s name. Fantasy football players may pass on the up-and-coming receiver. Heck, many diehards don’t know Meredith just yet.
He loves it.
“It’s nothing but motivation,” Meredith said. “Use it to go out there and make every opportunity count.”