Linebacker J.T. Thomas was the Bears sixth-round choice, 195th overall, in the 2011 draft. The 6-1, 241-pound former-Mountaineer posted a 4.77 40-yard dash at the Combine. Known at West Virginia for his football instincts and intelligence, Thomas could be an immediate contributor for the Bears on special teams.
Thomas offers his insights into his first week with the Bears:
"Man, what can I say? Just being here is a dream come true. No matter how hard we work I am going to remember and treasure every single moment of this camp."
"Making it to the pros is probably the dream of every young football player. It certainly was a goal of mine for a very long time. On draft weekend I waited and hoped. When the Bears called, it was amazing. I couldn't be happier than I am right now to have this opportunity to be joining a team like the Bears."
"The difficult part of the whole thing of course was the fact that I wasn't able to come to Halas Hall and begin workouts right after the draft. To some extent I think it puts all of the rookies who were drafted at somewhat of a disadvantage because we missed so many practice sessions."
"I didn't have any trouble keeping my workout schedule during that time but I did miss the opportunity to get accustomed to the system and to football at this level before this camp time period."
LB J.T. Thomas
"What's my first impression of professional football? This is a lot more complex than the college game. And I'm not even talking about the playbook, just about everything that is going on here right now. We're pretty close to the start of the regular season and the pace is fast and intense. It's clear that there is no time to waste. Everything is getting thrown at the new players at once."
"Days are kind of a blur of meetings and practices. You get up early and you work until its time to go to bed. The important thing is to be careful with your body. Anybody who wants and expects to have a long NFL career needs to be sure he is in the best physical shape possible."
"I watch what I eat and I try to get as much sleep as I can. I think you'd hear that same thing from all of the other rookies as well. Anytime we are not in meetings or out on the field, we're resting up."
"The playbook is complex, as I expected it to be. The good part is now that school is done, this can be my full-time job. I'm trying to learn it as quickly as I can, then trying to put the things I am learning from it into practice when we're out on the field."
"I had quite a few reps with the first team the first week in camp because Nick Roach was out. It was fun but challenging. The speed and intensity were so much more than I'd been accustomed to in college. I'm really happy to see Nick back and Brian Iwuh here as well. They've been great in helping me with technique. Just seeing them out there is an education. It's important to my development as a linebacker to watch them and learn as much as I can."
"This week they've been teaching me the importance of details. It's vitally important to notice and understand everything that's happening on the field. What I'm trying to do is slow things down a little and take apart every aspect of my technique and be sure that it is perfect. Then once I've reached that point, I can make the tempo a lot faster."
"I am also working on my reaction time. In the pros there's no time to think then play. You have to be ready to go when the ball is snapped."
"You never want to be out there thinking ‘Hey I'm playing with somebody I've seen on TV.' Its hard to be next to players like Briggs or Urlacher and not be somewhat distracted. That is counterproductive, however. To be successful at this level, it takes concentration on what you are supposed to be doing and what the player you are covering is doing as well."
"Where do I see myself fitting in? Well, it's hard to tell at this point. I want to be able to contribute wherever the coaches feel I will be strongest. I'm sure they'll let me know exactly what they want as the season gets closer."
"Tomorrow night is my first time in Soldier Field. I haven't even been to Chicago yet. It should be a lot of fun seeing the facilities at the stadium and meeting the fans. I'm really looking forward to it. Then comes the first preseason game. I want to be successful so I'm putting everything I have into my preparation for that. I can't imagine a better way to be spending my time."
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.