When I was very young, whenever we’d get back from a special family trip or event, I’d get terribly sad and melancholy wondering if I’d ever experience anything as cool or as great again.
That was the sense I got from a number of the current Bears players as we returned from the weekend’s 100th anniversary celebration to Halas Hall on Tuesday and the first day of this year’s mandatory veteran minicamp.
None other than the Mack Daddy himself, All Pro and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, struggled to find the words to describe what it meant to him to hang with Butkus, Sayers, Hampton, Singletary and other members of Bears lore.
“Oh man it was amazing," Mack said. "Getting to see all the Hall of Famers and all the past players, it was an honor to be a part of this. There’s rich history around the Bears organization, and just taking it all in was amazing.”
But the guy whose reaction intrigued me the most has to be another first-team All Pro of current vintage, Kyle Fuller.
Just two years ago, there were serious doubts whether Fuller would not only remain a Bear but just what kind of future he had in the game.
Now he’s in the conversation about the best cornerbacks in the league.
Once near impossible to get more than a two- or three-word answer from, Fuller has become one of the more introspective and well-spoken players on this Bears team.
Asked what impact Bears100 had on him, Fuller said, “Yeah, it reminds you, you know it but then actually being around it, it just gives you another reminder of how rich this tradition is and it feels special.”
Like all his teammates, Fuller had a most special moment over the weekend.
“It might have been, it was funny when we first walked in you knew there was going to be a lot of people there and alumni, but then you walked in and you saw all the older guys. And then in the background, I walked around and I see all my teammates just sitting there, looking. It was pretty cool.”
Fuller considers himself somewhat a student of the game and the Bears organization, but he kept going back to the education he got this past weekend.
“Right when I was walking in, Gale Sayers was coming in and, like I said, it reminds you. You hear these names but sometimes I’ll be at home and you kind of want to know a little bit more so you google one of these guys, learn a little bit more and it’s pretty cool that they came from the same organization.”
Among current Bears, Fuller may have been paid the ultimate compliment when Virginia McCaskey referenced his comments about coming to work when trying to give voice to her own feelings.
I asked Kyle how it made him feel.
“Oh special, I mean, I think I always, I’m always just kind of all ears and eyes when I hear what’s coming out of her mouth.”
Does Fuller ever think about what it might be like to walk in her shoes?
“I actually do. More times than you may think. I’m always curious like what is it like to be in her shoes and just know so much and have been around so long.”
It’s really a fascinating state in which to find a young man who not long ago appeared to be at risk of having no future at all in Chicago with the Bears.
So how does Fuller feel about being where he is today, as opposed to his third season in Chicago spent on I.R. with a somewhat mysterious knee injury?
“It’s a blessing. You know, you definitely think back to those moments and I feel like a lot of people who reached the points in their careers where they went through stuff like that, they take that and use that to be the best player they can be.”
Who knows how close he was to never being an All-Pro corner in a Bears uniform.
For Fuller it’s been an interesting and challenging ride to what he now knows is a very special place.