Rookie Diary: Stephen Paea

In our third installment of the 2011 Rookie Diary, Bear Report caught up with Chicago's second-round pick, DT Stephen Paea, who discusses his experience at training camp so far.

Defensive tackle Stephen Paea, the Chicago Bears' second-round pick in the 2011 draft, impressed coaches at the NFL Scouting Combine with his strength, speed and intelligence. Paea, who hails from Samoa and played college ball at Oregon State, broke the combine bench-press record, lifting 225-pounds 49 times. He looks to bring both size (6-1, 303) and agility to his position, and could fill an immediate need for the Bears on the defensive side of the ball.

Paea spoke with Bear Report after last night's practice:

"It's a real thrill to be here. I am especially enjoying this fan night at Olivet University. It's great to see the families who have come out tonight to watch the practice. We really appreciate the support they have given the team throughout the training camp. Even on the hottest days there was a good-sized crowd cheering us on."

"It's been quite an experience so far playing with the Bears. I'm meeting guys I'd only read about or seen on television. How cool is that? And the first time I put on that Chicago helmet and jersey was very emotional for me. A dream come true for sure. But I have to realize that this is a job and it's going to be a lot of hard work from here on out. Camp was a preview of that."

"It's been a real challenge both physically and mentally to learn all that we need to know before the season begins. I think that the rookies really feel the lack of time we've had so far."


DT Stephen Paea
Jonathan Daniel/Getty

"Without the mini camps and rookie camps earlier in the spring this year, the learning curve has been much steeper than it was for rookies in earlier years. Or that's my guess anyway. Learning a new system like this takes time and since we didn't have that luxury, we are doing it on the fly, learning as quickly as we can."

"The main difference I've noticed is that when you are practicing in the NFL everything has to be just right. In college you can sometimes get away with some things. I know now that the coaches are going to be watching every move I make and want it all to be perfect."

"I loved the chance to play in Soldier Field last weekend. All my family was there so that was a real thrill. They flew into Chicago just to see me play. How great is that? It was so much fun to hear the fans cheering and to finally play in the stadium. It's a beautiful place."

"It was an obvious change looking across the line at players who weren't wearing Bears jerseys. When we play our teammates in practice it gets to a point where we have a pretty good idea of the moves they'll be making. When you're up against another team you don't know nearly as well, it's completely different. It's necessary to pay close attention and try to anticipate what your guy is going to do."

"I think that I'm learning the system pretty quickly but I am definitely working with the coaches and vets on the fine points of my technique. You need to really take each move apart then put it back together so it is absolutely correct. Once you have those basics down, you can begin to speed up on the line."

"So far I think I am okay on reaction time. I'm trying to have moves that are second nature to me so I just do them on instinct rather than think about them first. That's important so you aren't beaten at the line."

"I think I can contribute to the team in a positive manner. I am very competitive and I love the game. I think that I am coachable. I am definitely excited to have been chosen by the Bears. It's a team I've read about for quite a while. Making it to the NFL is a big deal to me but having the chance to play for a team like this one is so exciting."

"I'd never been to Chicago before I was drafted by the Bears so I'm looking forward to our move back to Lake Forest this weekend and having a chance to explore the city. I have family both in the United States and in Samoa and my dream is for all of them to be able to come to Soldier Field some day and watch me play."


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.


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