By Chris Emma–
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) — A crowd was waiting outside the terminal at O’Hare Airport on Friday, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Bears’ budding franchise face.
Mitchell Trubisky and his family were wowed at the reception. It would only continue, as he found himself plastered on the front page of the city’s major newspapers. When Trubisky was introduced at Halas Hall in the afternoon, there was a herd of photographers elbowing to get that money shot.
But little did he know the angst that came with his selection. Bears fans aren’t exactly united on general manager Ryan Pace’s firm conviction. Trubisky started one season at North Carolina. Now, he’s the second overall pick and the city’s greatest hope at a return to gridiron prominence.
“I’m just going to do the right things like I’ve always done, stay true to myself,” Trubisky said. “You’ve got to be a leader — you’ve got to be the first one in the door and last one out. You’ve got to be the hardest working guy. You’ve got to be the most knowledgeable and you’ve got to be competitive.
“You’re going to get a competitor in me. I’m never going to give up. I’m never going to give up on my teammates.”
The Bears believe in what Trubisky can become. Pace was willing to trade four picks to move up one spot in the draft to ensure his team didn’t miss out on Trubisky.
Pace wouldn’t take Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes as an alternative. He couldn’t let the Browns or Jets move into the 49ers’ second slot and take away the quarterback in whom he holds great belief.
On Friday, Trubisky arrived at Halas Hall dressed to the nines, in Bears navy blue and eager for what’s to come. He soaked up the history of this heritage franchise and made himself familiar with Walter Payton, whose story he has admired.
The 22-year-old Trubisky was still coming to a realization with his new team after the surprising selection on Thursday night. By Friday morning, it all felt right.
Trubisky won’t be the starter in 2017 — Mike Glennon is the Bears’ quarterback, Pace has made clear — but he knows that time will come.
“I couldn’t imagine myself in a better spot,” Trubisky said. “I’m excited for this opportunity.”
This season for Trubisky will be about developing. Pace wants to see the 13-game college starter at North Carolina adjust to snaps under center, learn the verbiage of the Bears’ playbook and become more familiar with leading a team, among many details. Pace believes in the raw abilities of Trubisky, but he needs reps in practice. He’ll get them.
Trubisky will spend this season out of the limelight as the $18.5 -million man Glennon gets his chance to lead the Bears. But starting in 2018, Trubisky will be right under the microscope. His every move will be focused on and scrutinized. Oh, and Trubisky should probably delete a few tweets.
Given a chance to find an instant upgrade to a roster in need of plenty, the Bears instead opted to select a quarterback for their future. It was bold and ultimately will determine Pace’s place with the organization.
Quarterbacks taken at the top of the draft are expected to become elite. Those who fall short of expectations become a punch line — look no further than Bears backup Mark Sanchez. It’s an unfortunate fate for those high expectations.
But the intensity will be taken up a notch in this city, so desperate to see its Bears led by a great quarterback.
“I have high expectations for myself and what I’m capable of in the future,” Trubisky said. “And I love ball, so for me it’s all about just playing football, continue to play the game I love and bring the winning tradition back here to Chicago.”
Like Jay Cutler before him, Trubisky will be judged by whether he can win games — and then win playoff games. Pace referred to his championship potential. Contending would be a nice start for the Bears, who have won just one postseason game in the last decade.
Trubisky understands the tall task he faces. First comes a redshirt year instrumental for his future, then comes the rest of his career. The Bears are counting on him to become a franchise quarterback.
Trubisky has a year to prepare, then it’s time for results.
“I don’t think anyone wants to win more than I do,” he said. “Hopefully I can bring that to this organization.”