By Chris Emma–

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. (CBS) — Jimmy Clausen’s reputation often precedes him.

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After all, this was the brash kid who committed to play at Notre Dame at the College Football Hall of Fame, arriving in a limo and flashing the California state championship rings. He was cover boy of every magazine on the stands, being touted as the golden boy.

But the championships didn’t come at Notre Dame — the Fighting Irish went 16-21 in his three seasons — and Clausen’s respectable run earned him only a second-round draft selection to Carolina. Soon enough, he was the backup, then out of town and without a job.

Now, Clausen is the Chicago Bears’ backup quarterback and embracing his opportunity.

“I feel really comfortable,” Clausen said.

Frankly, the perception of Clausen is unfair.

Now in his second year as the Bears’ backup quarterback, the real Clausen is something different than many would imagine. He’s a workhorse.

“He’s been good in every facet of his preparation,” Bears coach John Fox said.

Carolina quit on Clausen after just 10 starts in 2010. He didn’t throw a pass after that season, and it wasn’t until Marc Trestman took a chance on Clausen that he got another chance.

The Clausen who showed up in Chicago was humbled and grateful for his chance. He was often the last to leave the practice field, putting in extra work on his throws. His eagerness to improve showed with each action along the way.

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“He’s a smart guy, picks up the system, asks really good questions in meetings,” Bears starter Jay Cutler said. “He’s right there along with me in the process of learning things.”

Clausen’s 2014 season came to an end after Trestman’s power-play benching of Cutler in week 16 with Detroit, where Clausen suffered a concussion. But first-year general manager Ryan Pace came away impressed with Clausen’s preparation as reason to re-sign the quarterback.

Now, Clausen is spending training camp studying Adam Gase’s new offense, the same way he did Trestman’s last season when he was signed in June and was forced to catch up. Clausen is focusing on how Peyton Manning commanded the line of scrimmage before the snap, reading the opposing defense and making the right decisions.

“It’s like learning a different language,” said Clausen. “We got to throw everything from what we had last year away and start over.”

Said Gase: “I think he’s where we want him mentally, for sure.”

Now at the age of 27, and six years removed from Notre Dame, Clausen still has that rocket arm and tremendous pocket presence. He’s a truly talented quarterback who hasn’t quite put it all together.

At Olivet Nazarene, Clausen is soaking up everything he can to become a better quarterback.

“Everybody in the world could throw a ball harder than me, farther than me, do this, do that, run faster than me, jump higher than me,” said Clausen. “It’s all the mental stuff that we have to zone in on right now.”

Sure, Clausen can’t escape his reputation, but he can earn better for his future. That driven demeanor may not define him, but it should.

Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.

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