Rookie safety Anthony Walters was recently elevated from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. A graduate of Delaware, the 6-0, 204-pound Walters earned All-Colonial Athletic Association honors his senior year and was signed by the Bears as an undrafted free agent back in September. Walters talks exclusively with Bear Report about his new role with the team.
"Not that much has really changed except for the fact that I'm taking reps with the team now. It's a little different as I'm playing a position where before with the practice squad I was taking the role of one of our opponent's players. Now I get the chance to develop a little of my own moves and techniques.
"The call telling me that I'd made the regular roster was somewhat of a surprise, but I couldn't be happier. I had hoped when I first signed with the Bears that this would happen. The fact that it happened sooner rather than later, makes it even better.
"What do I bring to the team? Well, I guess my athleticism, my speed and my intelligence. I am also really competitive. I always want to do my absolute best no matter what I am doing.
S Anthony Walters
Dennis Wierzbicki/US Presswire
"I came to the game of football relatively late compared to a lot of these guys here who started playing at four or five years of age. I started playing freshman year in high school. I also played varsity basketball at that time and, in fact, during sophomore year I did a lot more basketball than football. Then my coaches sat me down and said I'd need to choose one or the other. I picked football.
"As a kid, and even as late as college, I never imagined I'd make it to this level. Sure, everybody who plays football at any age wants to be in the NFL but you've got to step back and think just how realistic that dream might be. I always felt it was important to study hard and to have a backup plan.
"I did a couple of internships in college, including one for Under Armour, the company that makes all the shirts players wear. That was a lot of fun. In fact, when I was elevated this week to the regular roster, I called my agent and he called that company. They told me they'd be sending me some extra stuff to congratulate me. Look, it's right here in my locker. Pink shoes and pink gloves, the stuff the NFL is featuring this month. It just came in this morning. How cool is that?
"When I was playing for Delaware I always focused on what was immediately in front of me. I wanted to do a good job, get good stats, make it to All Conference, that kind of thing. I didn't have a particularly long view of things, I just wanted to succeed in short-but-measurable steps.
"When scouts came around to check the players out our senior year, I still made it a point of concentrating on what was right in front of me. I'd seen some guys get distracted by the potential of it all, then their play deteriorated. I just did my job and forged on. When I heard I might be drafted, I was thrilled but somewhat surprised.
"I did not get picked draft weekend, but I decided to take a chance and pursue my NFL chances. I moved back home with my mom and dad because I simply had no money for rent. Heck, I hardly had enough to buy food on my own. Those were some pretty lean times as the lockout wore on. It was hard to stay positive and focused but I did want to give this every opportunity to succeed, so I hung on.
"As the time went by, I had no idea what to do. Do I give up and get a real job? I decided to stick with things a little longer, working out all the time at my local high school because they let me be there for free. I was getting pretty low on funds when suddenly the lockout ended. By 7 p.m. that night, six teams had called me. The Bears were first and they sounded very convincing in terms of their interest in me. I went with them and never looked back.
"Now I'm here and couldn't be happier. It's hard work and very demanding both physically and mentally but I'm doing what I love. Money will always be a concern for me. I think that is because I was raised to think very conservatively, but finally I don't need to worry about finding enough change to go to McDonald's for dinner. And I'm playing for a great team in a wonderful city. It doesn't get much better than that. This has opened so many possibilities and the future looks bright."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.