By JOSEPH PHILLIPS
After winning the Otis Wilson 7-on-7 camp in July at Gately Stadium, the Kenwood Academy Broncos football team received a miniature replica of the 1985 Bears Super Bowl trophy and the chance to practice with the 2019 Bears team.
“Commitment, hard work, and dedicat(ion) to your craft,’ said legendary Bears linebacker Otis Wilson after the Broncos won the 7-on-7 camp. “That’s why sports is a great thing for life. It gives you life skills that you will never forget.”
The team was granted permission to practice with the 2018 NFC North Division champs on Aug. 27. And Broncos Coach Sinque Turner called it the opportunity of a lifetime.
“This is beautiful,” said Turner of his team practicing at Halas Hall. “I think this is a great inspiration and motivation for my kids going into game week. This opportunity is amazing.”
Prior to the Broncos’ match-up against city rivals Whitney Young High School to kick off the 2019 season, Turner felt there was no better way to prepare his team than to practice with last year’s NFC North Division champs. Previous Varsity Bears events have had only the Bears on the practice field. This year, Kenwood joined the Bears for a group warmup, then split off to conduct their practice elsewhere on the campus.
In spite of the hype swirling around his team’s trip to Halas Hall, Turner refused to allow his team’s ego to grow. He made the event more of a business trip than a tour at Halas Hall.
“We’re still going to use this as a prep day because this is a game week for us,” said Turner. “So, we’re not going to use it as a fun day or things of that nature. We’ll wait until everything is over, then they can have fun and get autographs and all that good stuff.”
After practice, both teams posed for photos, and Kenwood players were allowed to seek out individual players.
Donald Dillon, Kenwood’s star free safety who holds several Power 5 scholarship offers, was excited to watch professional athletes going about their business.
“It’s surreal,” said Dillon. “You kinda just, like, take a double-take. They’re actually bigger than the TV shows.”
Bears Safety Eddie Jackson took the opportunity to ask the players about their college plans and encourage them to stay in school.
“When I was in their shoes, we didn’t really have the opportunity to come out here and talk to guys on NFL teams,” said Jackson. “That’s why I was sitting out there just talking to them because I know it means a lot.”
Hosting a local high school team for the second time in as many weeks, coach Matt Nagy shared the importance of high school football.
“It goes quick,” said Nagy. “No. 1, my oldest just started high school this year. You see that. I’m dealing with kids that age all the time.
“And then I go back to thinking about when I was coaching high school ball 11 years ago, 10 years ago, and so I realize that’s some special times there. As a player, some of my greatest memories, you learn so much, those are your brothers out there.”