By Chris Emma–
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (CBS) — Growing up just west of Chicago in Westchester, Cameron Meredith, then a young Bears fan, had a poster in his bedroom.
The poster featured several Bears players, something common for kids around Chicago. This is nothing out of the ordinary, especially given the team’s beloved status by its fans, but this poster means more now for Meredith, a rookie receiver who earned his way to the Bears’ 53-man roster.
“It’s been a crazy story,” Meredith said Wednesday, just days after making the team.
Illinois State coach Brock Spack, a veteran in the industry, didn’t see Meredith as an NFL player when he moved the former walk-on quarterback to receiver in 2013, hoping to utilize his talents.
Meredith spent his first three seasons with the Redbirds as a backup quarterback, seeing action in just three games. He was a tremendous athlete from St. Joseph (Ill.) High School but couldn’t earn a starting job. Then came the move to wideout, and Meredith flourished.
“I wish I would’ve made the move a little earlier,” Spack said with a chuckle.
In defense of Spack, there’s no projecting a player rising from walk-on at an FCS program to undrafted free agent to making an NFL roster. It takes diligent, tireless work to improve — that combined with natural abilities.
Meredith dedicated his last two seasons at Illinois State to becoming an NFL talent. He took terrific talent and worked toward mastering his craft as a receiver.
“I don’t think he’s really reached his full potential, and I think (the Bears) know that,” Spack said. “He’s going to get better – quite a bit better.”
That’s what the Bears saw of Meredith, too. He was added as an undrafted free agent and became a standout of training camp, making impressive catches in Bourbonnais. When the Bears lost their top four receivers to injury, Meredith took advantage of a chance running with Chicago’s first-team offense, showing sure hands and a consistent approach.
Meredith made the most of his opportunity with the hometown team.
“It’s inspiring,” Bears receiver Eddie Royal said. “Just seeing his hard work — you can’t just do that, go out there and be a quarterback and (transition to) receiver without putting in the work. And it shows.”
Added Meredith: “You got to keep reminding yourself that you’re not promised anything. You got to go out there and finish every play like it’s your last one.”
Apprehension sunk into Meredith’s stomach this past weekend. Cuts were coming, and he couldn’t feel safe. Meredith tried to keep his focus elsewhere but was thinking of what he did wrong, where he could have been better, the ways that he could have dazzled the coaches.
But that call came Saturday — Meredith was staying with the Bears.
“It means the world,” Meredith said. “Just getting an opportunity and making the team, I feel ecstatic. Now, I just got to let it sink in, come out here every day and work my butt off so the coaches know they made the right decision.”
Follow Chris on Twitter @CEmma670.