Ten years ago a rookie running back from NIU made the Bears’ roster. That was Garrett Wolfe. Can another rookie running back from NIU Joel Bouagnon do the same?
Bouagnon is an under-the-radar player on the Bears roster. He wasn’t drafted. He was signed as a free agent. He plays perhaps the deepest, most talented position on the team. Jordan Howard, Jeremy Langford, Ka’Deem Carey and Tarik Cohen are all young backs who were high draft picks. There’s also veteran Benny Cunningham who signed with the team in March.
So what will Bouagnon have to do to try to make an impression on the coaches?
“Just definitely doing what I do best, playing physical, pass-protecting well and catching out of the backfield,” says Bouagnon. “Definitely running hard. That’s what I know how to do and I think that’s the way to impress them.”
At NIU Bouagnon was one of the top runners in the MAC. As a junior he was first team all-conference. He rushed for almost 1285 yards, and he led the MAC with 18 rushing touchdowns. As a senior last year he rushed for 885 yards and he was second team all-conference.
Bouragnon has NFL size. He’s 6’2, 226 pounds. After going through the Bears’ summer strength and conditioning programs Bouagnon is more physically fit than he was last year with the Huskies.
“I’ve defintely gotten faster. Everything is just kicked up a notch,” he says. “You have to practice hard and you have to run fast every time.”
“I’m feeling pretty comfortable. I’m just getting the plays down. That’s kind of the biggest thing understanding the offense, but after that you just relax and play.”
Bouagnon says playing in the NFL has been a dream of his since he was in Kindergarten, so you can imagine his emotions the first time he put on a Bears’ jersey.
“Seeing that ‘C’ on your chest it was a really good feeling. Undescribable!,” he says.
If Bouagnon doesn’t earn a roster spot with the Bears all of the time that he has spent with them in OTAs and minicamp and now training camp, all that experience will prove invaluable should he try to latch on with another team.
“Your foot’s in the door you know what I mean? You take all the experience that you can.”