Matt Fleming was ready to get on with his life when he got The Text.
“I was actually walking to my car, about to leave [Halas Hall] after the last practice,” the former Simeon football and track star said. “They kind of said, ‘See you later, everybody.’ I was saying goodbye to all the coaches, thanking them for allowing me to come.
“And as I was walking to the car, I got a message, ‘Come upstairs.’ And I’m like, ‘Whoa.’ Because everybody else was leaving. So I’m thinking as I was going back [to Halas Hall] that something was going on.”
Indeed, something was. Fleming’s dream — at least Phase One of the dream — was about to become a reality. The 6-0, 180-pound wide receiver from Benedictine University of Lisle via the South Side turned a rookie minicamp tryout into a spot on the 90-man roster.
“It was just breathtaking. I couldn’t believe it,” Fleming said. “Being from Chicago, I’ve always been a Chicago Bears fan. Sitting here watching them and then being called . . . coach Nagy saying my name in the press conference [when asked about players who made an impression] — it was crazy. It was a blessing.
“And it happened on Mother’s Day, so I ended up being able to go home and tell my Mom and she was just ecstatic.”
Nagy’s endorsement of Fleming’s rookie minicamp performance was the first indication of good news. “One kid that stood out was Matt Fleming,” Nagy said after the final practice May 13 at the Walter Payton Center. “He’s a kid who came into the pro day [workout before the draft]. Not a real big kid, but he made his assignments, did his job, made some nice catches.”
Making the offseason roster and likely heading to training camp in Bourbonnais only reaffirms Fleming’s faith that his unusual path is the right one. He was home-schooled until his junior year and went to Division III Benedictine because he insisted on running track and playing football in college. And he applied for the NFL draft with a year of eligibility remaining.
There’s no doubt about his athleticism. Fleming had 45 receptions for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns at Benedictine last season. He also ran on the Eagles’ Division III national championship 4 x 100-meter relay team and was second in the long jump as a sophomore in 2017.
But this is a huge step up.
“I could sit here and say ‘I’m going to do this or do that.’ But right now it’s about learning the playbook, and building chemistry with the guys on the team,” Fleming said. “And I believe I’ve already begun to do that. Just getting better every day. Just chip away at that block. I’m going to be the guy who’s always going to put his best foot forward and be a guy who can be depended on in those four quarters.”