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Cole Kmet eager to be a hometown hero

Getting drafted by the Bears in the second round is a “dream come true” for the Notre Dame tight end, who grew up in Lake Barrington and starred at St. Viator in Arlington Heights.

Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet (84) blossomed as a junior in 2019 — he had 43 receptions for 515 yards and six touchdowns after coming into the season without 17 catches for 176 yards and no touchdown in his first two years.
Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet (84, against Boston College in 2019) caught 43 passes for 515 yards (12.0 avg.) and six touchdowns in 11 games as a junior in 2019.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

When Cole Kmet was growing up in Lake Barrington, he heard stories about his dad — former Hersey and Purdue lineman Frank Kmet — playing on the Bears’ practice squad in 1993.

“We would go to games and stuff, and it was something that I was aware of — that he would talk about,” Cole said. “Playing for the Bears . . . was obviously a dream for him, too, because he grew up in the area as well. So it was pretty cool.”

Cole Kmet will feel that “living the dream” emotion exponentially in the coming days, months and — he hopes — years. While his father was on the fringes of the Bears’ roster, Cole will be front and center as a key player in coach Matt Nagy’s offense, just four years removed from baseball/football stardom at St. Viator in Arlington Heights.

The 6-6, 262-pound Notre Dame tight end was the Bears’ second-round pick (43rd overall) in the NFL Draft on Friday night. The move was much anticipated throughout the draft process; Kmet was considered the No. 1 tight end prospect, and the Bears’ need for a tight end whom Nagy can grow with was painfully obvious. But the moment still was surreal for Kmet, who, along with his immediate family, was overcome with emotion as he took the call from Nagy at his parents’ house in Arlington Heights.

“I mean, this is amazing,” he said. “It’s a dream come true for me, and obviously [I’m] really excited.”

The opportunity to play for the Bears means a lot to the Kmet family — and not just Cole.

“I think my mom was the most pleased, just because she knows I’m going to be staying around [here], which she’s really happy about,” Kmet said. “My whole family, we grew up Bears fans. So this is just unreal for us.”

Kmet is the first local player drafted by the Bears since Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour, from Benet, was a sixth-round pick in 2010. (Northern Illinois running back Garrett Wolfe, from Holy Cross, was a third-round pick in 2007.)

This is the earliest the Bears have drafted a local player since offensive tackle Dennis Lick, a St. Rita product, was taken eighth overall in 1976 out of Wisconsin.

Kmet is ready for whatever pressure comes with being a high draft pick and a player from the Chicago area.

“I can’t wait. I’m just really excited,” he said. “I’m not going to worry about [the pressure to produce in Chicago]. I know that Bears fans want a winner. I know that because I am [a Bears fan].”

Kmet said he was a big fan of former Bears tight end Greg Olsen “for a little bit before they traded him.”

“But I was always watching Brian Urlacher,” he said. “[He] was a lot of fun on defense. I really loved watching him growing up.”

Kmet said the most memorable game he attended at Soldier Field as a fan was a preseason game against the Chargers and running back LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006.

“I just remember going to that, and I had a lot of fun there, just because L.T. at the time was a player and I loved watching him when I was a little kid,” Kmet said. “I always loved going to those types of deals — like the preseason games. I went to a Halloween game vs. the Vikings [in 2016, a 20-10 victory]. That was fun. But going to see L.T. in the preseason matchup was pretty cool.”