Player Profile: Leon Joe

Lake Forest - Second-year linebacker Leon Joe could get the chance to start at strong safety Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons if Hunter Hillenmeyer's fractured thumb keeps the veteran on the sidelines. It's an opportunity that Joe has waited for since being picked by the Bears in the fourth round of the 2004 draft.

The 6-1 235 lb. native of Ft. Washington, Md. split his rookie year with the Bears, then with the Cardinals after being waived by Chicago following the first game of the 2004 season. Joe was then claimed off waivers during the first week of training camp this year.

Despite being inactive for the first two games of the seasons, Joe ranks second in special teams tackles with 17. He recently took the time to let Bear fans get to know him a little bit better by doing a personnel profile.

College: University of Maryland

Major: Criminal Justice. That's a field that's always been of interest to me. There are a lot of different aspects to that type of a job, a lot of variety in the day-to-day work. For now, I watch a lot of Law and Order, just to get the feel of what those people do.

I don't actually have my degree at this point in time, but I do intend to return to school and finish it up.

Favorite football memory: The first time I was on the field. I didn't start playing until I was older, probably 15 or 16. I had been interested in the game, but I just hadn't had the opportunity to play before then. I came from a military family and we moved all over the world, not staying anywhere for very long. It's hard to become a part of a team when you don't know how long you'll be at that school.

I remember living in Texas and Ohio. We were there for a while. And we did remain in Guam for a few years, starting when I was about eight. That was really interesting and a lot of fun, but the weather was really hot.

Once I started playing football, I really enjoyed it. It was pretty much what I thought it would be like, but maybe even better. I liked the talent needed to play and I seemed to have the athleticism to succeed.

When did you fit think you might have a chance to make it into the NFL: I'd say early on in my college career, but it was something that was always in my mind. I had friends who were in the pros. I thought since they'd made it, I could too. I was a three-year starter for Maryland. When scouts started coming around, I felt that becoming a pro could be a realistic possibility.

Did you have any football idols when you were growing up: I always enjoyed watching Jerry Rice and Roger Craig. But I just saw them on television. I never had the chance to go to a game when I was young. The first time I saw a game in person was during high school.

What was your first job: I had a summer job when I was at the University of Maryland. I helped move stuff around the campus.

What was your welcome to the NFL:Just the usual stuff of helping the veterans carry their equipment off the training camp practice field.

Is the NFL what you'd expected it to be: It's that and more. I'm having fun. It's really great.

What's your goal in terms of football: I want to be the best at my position and be the best at what I do.

What's your strength as a player: Definitely my speed. That's something I've always been good at. Also I think I have good instincts for the game. I can see plays unfolding on the field.

Since I've been back with the Bears, I've been very impressed with the new strength and conditioning program. It's helped me tremendously. Rusty Jones has me concentrating on my flexibility, which is something I've had problems with in the past. The work we've done is definitely paying off. He's helping me change my negatives into positives on the field.

What was it like to be waived by the Bears, then to be picked up by the team later: It was tough to leave but Arizona wanted me right away so that part of it was OK. But the Cardinals had a tough season. Losing is never pleasant.

When the Bears called me back I wasn't sure what to expect. But the team welcomed we with open arms. I immediately felt comfortable here and am excited about the way everyone has been playing. This has been a great season. This team has tremendous potential and I'm glad to be back here and to be a part of it.

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