Safety Chris Conte was selected by the Bears in the third round, 93rd overall, of the 2011 NFL Draft. The Los Angeles resident played for California, lining up for 50 games and starting for 17. Conte (6-3, 212) performed well at this spring's NFL Scouting Combine, with a 10-7 broad jump and 18 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press.
Conte offers his thoughts on training camp and his first night at Soldier Field.
"I can't imagine anybody being more thrilled than I am tonight just being here. It's tremendous, something I'd always dreamed of. On the way here tonight, I was thinking back to grade school, to high school and how every kid who plays football wants to play it at this level. Once it is actually happening to you, it's kind of indescribable. Way beyond exciting I guess is how I can explain it."
"Did I feel nervous before the game? Sure. It's been a very short time leading up to tonight. Due to the lockout we missed a lot of practices and mini-camps that rookies usually get in order to acclimate to the NFL. For us it was like jumping into the deep end of the pool. You sink or you swim."
"Don't think for a minute that our coaches are taking it easy on us or feel sorry for us because this lead in time to the regular season is so short. The pressure on us is huge. You learn how things work here and you're in, you don't learn it and you could be out."
S Chris Conte
"The playbook is amazing in its length and its complexity. I try to go through it every chance I get. Between meetings and on field time there isn't much in terms of free moments to study it, but you better believe all of us rookies are making time right now to get this done. It's like a college course, one that you need to pass as quickly as possible."
"Camp has been a whirlwind. My head is spinning from all the information coming in. It's important though to stay level mentally so you can take it all in."
"Physically I am feeling good. I'm trying to take any spare moments I might have to rest. That heat the first week was tough, but I am from Southern California so that isn't too much of a problem. When I first started playing at Cal I always thought the temperature there was too cold for football. Guess I'm in for a shock once winter hits here in Chicago."
"Paying attention to my physical conditioning is actually easier in the NFL than it was in college. That's because this is our main focus. You're not going off to take classes or dealing with other distractions. It's a job and one that takes 100 percent of your time and attention. I'm watching my diet and working hard to keep my weight exactly where it should be. At my position I need speed but I also need strength so being physically aware at all times is important."
"The vets have been great in helping us acclimate. In the locker room here tonight I'm between Craig Steltz and Chris Harris. You know those guys aren't going to let me get away with anything. But seriously, they are available to me when I have questions. That's a tremendous help."
"I've been asked about the turf. Last time we were here, just a week ago, I never had the opportunity to even step on the field so I have no basis of comparison. But I can say that tonight the footing was good. Even with the rain early in the game, there were no problems with traction that I was aware of."
"Soldier Field is amazing. Stepping out there for the first time was incredible. It was great to see the fans and hear the crowd. I think that each time I'm out there I'll enjoy it more."
"One question I had was how does NFL football differ from college ball. That's easy, it's a lot quicker and the guys you are up against are huge. I can't stress enough the size difference between college players and these pros. The trick I think is not to get intimidated by their skills."
"It was good to go up against another team after only facing our guys in camp. Their moves are different of course and you have to anticipate what these players will do out there on the field. That's all part of the learning curve, understanding how players from other teams approach the game."
"Next up is my first NFL road trip. We're heading to New York. I'm thinking it will be pretty much like a college trip, but fancier - but Craig Steltz here is laughing after hearing me say that. I'll let you all know about that when we get back."
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.