By Chris Emma–

Editor’s note: Less than a day after this story was posted, Cam Meredith suffered a thumb injury that’s expected to keep him out the remainder of the offseason.

CHICAGO (CBS) — It was a year ago that Bears receiver Cam Meredith walked through the concourse of then-named U.S. Cellular Field unrecognized. After all, he had recorded just 11 receptions as a rookie and wasn’t a household name.

Ever since, a lot more than the ballpark name has changed. Meredith, the converted quarterback from Illinois State, had a breakout 2016 season and emerged as a top receiver for the Bears. On Wednesday evening, he was the guest of honor for the White Sox and threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the team’s game with the Red Sox.

Consider this a dream come true for the Westchester native and White Sox fan. Meredith is now a young rising star in his hometown.

“I’m trying my best to sink everything in, because you know this is a once-in-a-lifetime type opportunity,” Meredith said Wednesday at Guaranteed Rate Field. “You got to make the best of all opportunities in life.”

Meredith has certainly made the most of his opportunity with the Bears. He got a shot with the team during camp in 2015 and stuck on the roster, playing 11 games as a rookie that season.

When the Bears saw attrition at receiver last season, Meredith stepped in as the go-to target. He led the team with 66 receptions, 888 yards and four touchdowns.

“He’s very fluid, he’s a big target and he can go up and get the ball,” Bears receiver Victor Cruz said of his new teammate.

Meredith is out to be better in 2017. His evolution has been steady ever since arriving with the Bears. Now, he projects to be the top receiver for a group that has a mix of veterans like Cruz and unproven players like Kevin White. With Alshon Jeffery now in Philadelphia, the team is hoping for Meredith to continue his ascension.

New quarterback Mike Glennon will likely be looking Meredith’s way plenty in 2017.

“He’s going to have a big year,” Glennon said. “He’s looked really sharp to me. You can tell, translated from quarterback to receiver, it seems like his path is only heading upwards.

“He’s just smooth. When he runs his routes, he’s really clean and crisp. Smooth is probably the best word to describe him.”

Life is a bit different for Meredith now. He walked out to Guaranteed Rate Field to loud cheers from fans gathered in the first rows. He signed baseballs for fans excited to get a glimpse at a Bears receiver. A Red Sox fan even shouted with the promise that he would draft Meredith for his fantasy team.

More fanfare has followed Meredith around his home city of Chicago. He knows well it was earned. Now it must be sustained.

“You got to take everything with a grain of salt and work on getting better,” Meredith said. “Everything will take care of itself.”

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.