As a rookie out of Oklahoma last season, Demontre Hurst made enough of an impression on the Chicago Bears coaching staff during OTAs and training camp to earn a spot on the club's practice squad. There he stayed all 17 weeks of the regular season, learning under some of the game's best cornerbacks in Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings.
Hurst looked to build on his first season by attending Bears rookie minicamp last weekend. He was the top dog at Halas Hall, outshining all secondary players by intercepting two passes over the three-day period.
We caught up with Hurst to discuss his performance at camp, what he learned being on the roster last year and more.
"I'm here again and I'm having a ball. As a first-year player, rather than a rookie, I have a completely different perspective. It's still really hard work but I can relax to a degree. Nothing seems strange or new to me. I see the rookies wandering around just trying to figure out where our locker room is and I kind of chuckle. There's a lot to take in when you are brand new in the NFL.
"The role I have been taking for the new tryout guys is that of a short-term mentor. I'm helping them out when I can on stuff like our terminology and workout routines. I see them cramming on the playbook when I know it already. I can help them with that too. That in itself is a huge plus.
"It's been such a long five/six months without football. I can't tell you how much I've missed that routine. I've loved getting in with the vets and working out and I love being here now with the rookies. Extra work is always a good thing at this level. It's all positive from what I see.
"I've been religious in doing my workouts and watching my diet since the season was over last year. But while that is very effective, it isn't half as much fun doing those same things with your teammates.
"I think what I've enjoyed most about this rookie minicamp is just the chance to be out here working with other players. It's all coming back to me, how much I love playing the game.
"I learned so much as a rookie. What I took away last year was the knowledge of how to preserve my body and utilize it effectively. It's all about what you put into your body and how you maximize your resulting physical power.
"The coaches favorite saying is ‘your body is your business'. A simple statement but it's true. Think about it. If we aren't sound physically, we will probably get injured and we aren't going to stick with any team in the NFL.
"I'm out here just trying to do whatever I can do to get better. I view myself as a work in progress. As long as that progress is moving forward, it's all good.
"What I've been telling the rookies is how our defense operates. The best thing they can do is to go out there with a ton of energy. But it can't all be physical, it's also very detailed mentally. You have to pay attention to everything the coaches tell you. It's that important. You also have to play fast. Everything goes at a quicker tempo here in the NFL.
"The most important thing I tell the rookies, and what I often tell myself, is not to forget to enjoy yourself. You have to put in the work and the time but if you aren't having fun while doing that, what's the point? You get better if you are happy doing what you do.
"Physically I'm really good, as healthy as I can possibly be. My body's good, my diet's good. I can't complain. There isn't much longevity among players in this league. Those who take care of themselves last longer, it's that simple.
"I've matured in the past year. I have learned how to play defense. It's more complicated to do that then you would think. I spend a lot of time watching film, studying what happened last year. I'm very conscious of my technique now. I watch every detail, take apart the move, then reconstruct them until they are perfect. By paying attention to the little things, I've learned how to become a more effective player.
"I don't go out there and think about things any more, I just go out and compete. Rookies tend to worry a lot about what they are doing and that slows them down. If any lesson is important going into this year, that's the one: know enough about what you are doing to relax and play. Know my assignment, take care of my business and just let everything fly, that's at the top of my list now. Play hard; play fast. If I make a mistake it'll be at full speed.
"Anything a defensive back can do, I'm working on it. Next week are OTAs. That'll be a challenge to show what I can do, and a lot of fun too. I'm just enjoying the time out there trying to better myself."
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.