Rextra Special: Part 1

Bears quarterback Rex Grossman was brought along slowly as a rookie last season, but begins his first full season as a starter in 2004. Grossman wants to prove he's going to be the answer in Chicago and the franchise's quarterback for years to come.

Rex Grossman never got the chance to meet the first Rex Grossman. Rex Daniel Grossman died 24 years ago of a sudden heart attack. The former Indiana University quarterback, who later played with the Baltimore Colts, died two months before his grandson, Rex Daniel Grossman III, was born. He was only 56.

"That's why he got the name," said Rex Daniel Grossman Jr., Rex's father, who is known around Bloomington, Ind. as "Danny." "He'd be busting out at the seams. My dad was a very enthusiastic, proud person. He'd have been nuts about this."

Grandpa never got to see Rex in Pop Warner football, become an Indiana Mr. Football at Bloomington South High School or even prosper into a Heisman candidate quarterback at Florida. Danny knows his dad was watching from above, and no doubt with a permanent smile on his face.

"The way we ("Danny" and wife Maureen) see it: there's 32 guys in the world doing this (a starting QB in the NFL). We've got one and Archie Manning has two. We're thrilled."

The future of the Bears now rests on Grossman's shoulders, and his right arm. The boy from Bloomington, who skipped town to play big-time college football instead of follow his grandfather and father's path to IU, has finally blossomed into a mature young man. He's graduated to the NFL, and in just his second season, will be handed the keys to the Bears offense.

A lot of players have come before him; some have succeeded, while most have failed. It's a tough city with even tougher standards, but Danny Grossman thinks his son will do just fine.

"I don't think (pressure) affects him at all, not even slightly," Danny said. "He's not worried about the history of it at all. He's comfortable with what he can do.

"If it works, it works, and if it doesn't, it doesn't. But he's very comfortable with what he's capable of doing."

The Bears must feel the same way. The team made him a first-round pick last season -- the fourth overall QB taken -- and he started the final three games in 2003.

Grossman was just the eighth QB ever drafted by the Bears in the first round -- and only the fourth since 1951, but he was an instant success for a team that had nothing to gain at the end of the season. He was the first Bears rookie quarterback to win his first two starts since 1952, and only one during that span to win his NFL debut.

"I think in his mind he is (a veteran)," Danny said. "Some people can kind of dream ahead of what they want to do and what they want to be in life and Rex did. And when (the draft) happened the rest of us were ecstatic.

"He was very, very happy, but later after all the excitement wore down, he was like, 'I expected this. What did you guys think was going to happen?' I said, 'OK, this doesn't happen to everybody.' But he's not arrogant or cocky about it, he was just extremely confident he had the ability to do it."

Now it's truly his time, and his team.

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