Seven months ago, Jack Sanborn was just a kid from Lake Zurich trying to make it to the pros after a rocky start going unselected from the 2022 NFL draft.
Now, he’s a starting linebacker for the Chicago Bears.
However, he ascertains the Bears showed as much interest as he did while an undrafted free agent. What attracted him to his hometown team?
“I think just kinda new regime, new people in the building,” Sanborn said to Laurence Holmes on NBC Sports Chicago’s Unfiltered. “I think a lot of stuff goes into it. But at the end of the day I wanted to be here I was excited to come to be here and I think they were pretty happy too.”
They certainly were happy, and so was he.
The rookie played four years in the Big Ten conference at the University of Wisconsin. He piled up nearly 300 tackles and 11.5 sacks in 38 games.
But, it wasn’t enough for him to hear his name called on draft day. He went undrafted and was forced to look for an employer. To him, there are “pros and cons to both of them.” But, he doesn’t hang his head on it.
“I think everyone wants to hear their name called for the draft and that’s what you grow up thinking about,” Sanborn said. “But at the end of the day that wasn’t meant to be. That’s in the past. Now we’re here in November and it’s time to play ball.”
Since putting on a Bears uniform, Sanborn quickly made his mark.
He executed a hustle-driven, stat-stuffing preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. He recorded an interception and a fumble recovery in the third quarter, leading to a Bears touchdown and field goal, respectively.
Sanborn made the 53-man roster, and began developing under a linebacker group headlined by All-Pro Roquan Smith.
But, before the trade deadline, the Bears traded Smith to the Baltimore Ravens for second- and fifth-round picks. In turn, Sanborn’s name was called.
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“It was kinda surreal and kinda not in the way that you would like it to go down,” Sanborn said when he was told he would be starting. “Just with the whole Roquan situation. He’s such a great guy and not here anymore. I was kinda excited, anxious, and all that. But at the same time, it was like ‘Dang’ you have to say bye to somebody that you began to get close to over the months.”
Since stepping into Smith’s shoes, he’s had the best games of his young career.
Over the past three games, he’s started in all three games and garnered 28 tackles, two sacks and one near interception that was called back from a defensive penalty.
He believes “experience” has helped him grow at a rapid pace this season and catch his bearings in an entirely new atmosphere amidst roster-churning chaos, which also includes Robert Quinn’s trade just before the deadline too.
Against the Detroit Lions two weeks ago, Sanborn recorded his first sack on Jared Goff. And he didn’t even know it.
“At the time I don’t even think I really knew that it was a sack just because of how it unfolded,” Sanborn said. “The quarterback was rolling out. I’m not 100 percent sure it was close to the line. I wasn’t exactly sure where he was.
“Nick [Morrow] came over to me and was like ‘Do you even know you got your first sack?’ He’s like ‘I can see it in your eyes that you don’t know.’ Coming off the field then people were congratulating me and it was pretty sweet. Pretty cool moment.”
Now, he marches through the rest of the season with a consistent mindset. He mentioned taking things with a “day-by-day” approach has helped him.
“I think the main this is we gotta focus on ourselves and focus on our jobs,” Sanborn said.
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