NIU receiver Kenny Golladay is headliner at Bears’ local pro day

Of course, Northern Illinois wide receiver Kenny Golladay is familiar with Cam Meredith’s story. Every kid from the Chicago area with dreams of playing in the NFL should be.

“He played quarterback at Illinois State,” Golladay said.

And now Meredith is penciled in as one of the Bears’ top receivers for the 2017 season.

“Oh, he definitely came on last year,” Golladay said. “I’ve heard a lot about him.”

NIU receiver Kenny Golladay at the NFL Scouting Combine. (AP)

Meredith’s rise can be traced to the Bears’ local pro day in 2015. From general manager Ryan Pace to former offensive coordinator Adam Gase, Meredith turned everyone’s head at Halas Hall that day.

A South Side native who played at St. Rita, Golladay plans to do the same Thursday. In fact, he should be considered one of the headliners at the Bears’ local pro day.

He’s not the unknown Meredith was two years ago. Meredith was a quarterback at St. Joseph in Westchester before switching to receiver at Illinois State.

The NFL already is on to Golladay. He has had private workouts for the Saints and Patriots, and he has visited the Steelers and Lions. The Packers will host him, too.

The Bears approached Golladay immediately after Northern Illinois’ pro day concluded March 10 and invited him to Halas Hall.

At 6-4 and 218 pounds, Golladay has the size that teams covet. He also has been timed in the 4.4-second range in the 40-yard dash.

“It’s pretty exciting to work out for your hometown team,” said Golladay, whose favorite players are returner Devin Hester and running back Matt Forte. “It’s really just an honor.”

From a personality standpoint, Golladay has that chip-on-his-shoulder attitude the Bears have sought under Pace and coach John Fox. Meredith has it, too.

Despite being an All-Catholic League Blue selection in high school, Golladay only received a scholarship offer from North Dakota.

“Coming from a big city like Chicago and going all the way to Grand Forks, North Dakota, it was a challenge,” he said.

“But it was a challenge I was willing to take.”

Golladay caught 99 passes for 1,313 yards and nine touchdowns his freshman and sophomore seasons before a coaching change at North Dakota prompted his own move to Northern Illinois in 2014.

As a transfer, Golladay had to sit out a season, but he blossomed in 2015 and 2016, catching 160 passes for 2,285 yards and 18 touchdowns. He was a first-team All-Mid-American Conference selection his last season.

“[Playing for the Huskies] was amazing,” Golladay said.

It helped that his family and friends could attend more games, too.

“Being a kid from the South Side of Chicago, you always see a lot of bad stuff about the South Side and just the violence that’s going on,” said Golladay, whose mother is a longtime Chicago Public Schools teacher. “Just to say that I came from the South Side of Chicago is a blessing.”

He’s very proud of where he’s from.

“It’s all just choices,” Golladay said. “You’re going to go your own path. As a man, you do that. I knew that I wanted to play football, so I stayed on a straight line pretty much.

“Sometimes you can always wander off a little bit, but at the same time, I knew what I wanted to do. I knew what my goal was. I made sure I just kept my head down and continued to grind.”

That grind continues this week with the Bears watching closely.

“Chicago kind of falls under the radar when it comes to football,” Golladay said. ‘‘We’re so big on basketball with Simeon, Whitney Young and Morgan Park. But you can definitely find some good skill-position [football] players from the Chicago area.”

Follow me on Twitter @adamjahns.
Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

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