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From Mentor to pupil: The rise of Bears QB Mitch Trubisky

North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky reacts after being selected by the Bears second overall. (AP)

The folks back home still tell Mitch Trubisky that it was the greatest game they had ever seen.

The 9,500 fans at an Ohio Region 1 third-round playoff game on Nov. 17, 2012, screamed their way through the biting cold as the game between Trubisky’s Mentor High School and favored St. Ignatius barreled toward overtime — and then two more.

There were five ties and six lead changes, the last one when Trubisky, a senior and the future Mr. Football of Ohio, threw a game-winning two-point conversion to childhood friend Brandon Fritts to secure a 57-56 victory in triple overtime.

“It wasn’t so much that he won the game, it was how he did it,” former North Carolina offensive coordinator Blake Anderson said.

“The entire stadium’s going crazy. Every coach on the sideline is losing their mind, every player, every fan. He was the most calm dude in the stadium. At times, he was telling coaches to settle down, like ‘I got it, I got it.’ ”

Trubisky completed 25 of 40 passes for 411 yards and two touchdowns. A running back until fifth grade — he wanted to be like Walter Payton — Trubisky also ran for 138 yards and four touchdowns.

“He was on a different planet, running and throwing it,” said Fritts, who went with Trubisky to UNC, where he plays tight end. “He tore that defense up. It was probably the best game he ever played — at least for now.”

That was when Trubisky learned to play in the moment. It would serve him well in his four years at UNC, where he redshirted for one season and came off the bench for two before taking a star turn in his only season as a starter en route to becoming the second overall pick Thursday.

“That’s who I am,” he said. “Being flustered and being out of control doesn’t help in any way.”

Trading four picks for Trubisky has divided Bears fans.

Trubisky doesn’t share anyone’s panic. He never does.

“For me, I want to be that guy that my teammates can look at and say, ‘Mitch isn’t even worried about it,’ ” he said. “You can’t worry about things that are outside your control.”

• • •

All NFL players have their hero stories.

“You think about it,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “A lot of quarterbacks, when they get to the NFL, they were all-state in high school, they led their teams to state championships, they all play really well.

“And they go to the NFL, and they die.”

They fail, he said, because they’re put in bad situations with unrealistic expectations or a rushed timeline. The Bears have neither.

“I was so excited about Chicago taking him because I knew they had a good plan,” Fedora said.

The plan seems odd to some. General manager Ryan Pace just paid Mike Glennon $16 million in guaranteed money — as part of a three-year, $45 million contract — to be the starter. But Fedora said playing behind Glennon next year might be the best thing for Trubisky.

Trubisky’s inexperience — he started 13 games, all last year as a redshirt junior — is almost unprecedented for a first-round quarterback.

He has practical hurdles to overcome. He was in shotgun more than 95 percent of the time last year. The Tar Heels called plays from the sideline with hand signals, meaning Trubisky needed to communicate with his offensive linemen — but not his receivers — at the line of scrimmage. NFL verbiage will be something new, as will the simple fact that the Bears huddle.

“I think he’ll step into that huddle with confidence,” UNC quarterbacks coach Keith Heckendorf said. “His actions and how he carries himself and goes to work, he’ll gain the respect of the other guys in that locker room. He did that at Carolina before he was ever named the starting quarterback.”

When Trubisky was deciding whether to turn pro in January, he called Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck to pick their brains. Former UNC quarterback Bryn Renner, who hosted Trubisky on his recruiting visit, played alongside Manning, Joe Flacco, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger during his brief NFL career.

“He’s cut of the same mold, the same cloth,” he said.

He was an ideal backup in college, which could foretell an amicable handling of a potentially awkward quarterback room.

“He handled that situation better than you can possibly imagine,” Anderson said.

Glennon had not called Trubisky by mid-afternoon Friday, but Renner thinks the two will be fast friends. Renner grew up with Glennon and befriended Trubisky in college.

“Mike’s a great person,” Renner said. “They’re almost kind of the same guy. They kind of have the same personality. They’re going to fit really well together.”

• • •

Fedora laughs off the most-asked question in Chicago this week: If Trubisky was so good, why did he start only one season?

“He would have been the starter for two years,” he said, “but he came out early.”

Fedora said Trubisky wasn’t ready to start during his first two years, and by the time he was, in 2015, senior Marquise Williams led UNC to 11 wins.

“He was patient and hung in there and kept working and getting better each and every day,” Fedora said. “A lot of that is what made him who he is today.”

Trubisky hadn’t been on an airplane until traveling to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for a recruiting visit. He fell in love with the campus, though he missed his parents, who met playing flag football in college, and his three younger siblings, Manning, Mason and Mariah.

Nine out of 10 college quarterbacks would have transferred to play more and said publicly the reason was to be closer to family.

“There’s a sense of pride for Mitch — he never complained once,” Fritts said. “He just waited his turn. He didn’t want to take the easy way out. He came to play.”

• • •

After Trubisky was drafted, he found his way back to a room with about 30 people, including his parents, Fritts and Mentor coach Steve Trivisonno.

He hugged each one, thanking them for the role they played in his life.

“People will talk about that for the rest of our lives,” Fritts said. “It was just a surreal feeling.”

To Fritts, Trubisky still will be the buddy with the junky car.

The quarterback drives a 1997 Toyota Camry, handed down from his grandmother in Florida. He parked it on a hill once, water pooled in the front seat and then sloshed through the car.

“My car smelled for a good one or two months,” Trubisky said.

It still does, Fritts said. When he climbs in, he asks if he should sign a medical waiver first.

“It never goes away, no matter how many fresheners he puts in there,” he said.

Renner texted him late Thursday: “Can you buy yourself a new car now?”

Trubisky is in no rush.

“That’s who I’m going to be,” he said.

He already promised Pace, who first saw the car after they had dinner in March, that he’d drive it to his new home.

“We joked at that moment like, ‘Hey, you need to bring this car to Chicago,’ ” he said. “Don’t change.”

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