Former Virginia Tech tight end Andre Smith spent this past offseason in Bourbonnais with the Chicago Bears. He performed well enough in training camp for the team to sign him to the practice squad. The Bears placed Kyle Adams on IR this week with a hamstring injury, which elevated Smith to the 53-man roster. He talks about finally fulfilling his lifelong dream.
"I got the call on Wednesday, the first day of practice this week, telling me that I'd been elevated from the practice squad to the regular roster. Sure, it was exciting to hear that but in retrospect I'm surprised that I was as calm as I was. It wasn't crazy and it wasn't scary, it was just different. But I did have a little body shaking going on. That's what happens when I get really happy about something.
"What I like about hearing that far ahead of time is that I have the opportunity to re-adjust mentally. I feel well prepared for this. I always played hard on the practice squad during the week, but knowing I'll also be suiting up this weekend makes it a little more intense. Game day is always a little faster, a little harder than during the week. I'm watching every detail of my play and of everybody else's play, just as I always do, and also being careful to get my rest during off time so my body is in good shape.
TE Andre Smith
"Playing in a regular season NFL game is a goal I've been aiming toward since I first signed with the Bears last summer. Now it's here. How good is that? I'm definitely looking forward to being in out there in an important game against Detroit this weekend. We made a statement in Philadelphia but now we have to follow up and do the same thing again.
"Detroit is still ahead of us in the playoff picture so to get to the postseason, we have to keep winning games. The fact that these teams are longtime rivals makes it that much more intense. The game should be exciting and tough. They have a lot of talent on that side of the ball and a very good front defense. It'll be crazy.
"I've been asked whether the crowd noise will be a distraction for me. Not really. I played at Virginia Tech and we got upwards of 60,000 fans on many of our football weekends. It was hard to hear anything but that roar and I can't imagine that Soldier Field will be any louder than that. But you never know, I could be wrong.
"As far as nerves, I am sure that will be a factor. Every single game I played at Tech I was incredibly nervous before it began. But once I was out there my focus changed entirely to what was happening on the field. I tend to concentrate completely on the play going on and not worry about what I am feeling.
"What I've been working on this week are the fine points of technique. I want to be at that stage where my play is instinctual. If you have to think before you move, you are too slow. From the film I've been watching, Detroit is a strong, fast team. If you let them get away from you, they'll take over the game, so that is one thing we are not going to let happen.
"I've heard from a lot of my friends and family this week. That's been a lot of fun. They are telling me that they'll all be watching. I'm eager to get in there, lose the nerves and perform well."
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.