Humboldt Park musician Scott Morrow was hit by a stray bullet June 20. Riding in the ambulance, he listed in his mind all the reasons he wanted to live: his family, friends and the album he was working on.
“And stupid stuff,” he told Block Club Chicago last week. “Like, ‘I can’t die before I see Justin Fields on the field for the Bears.’ ”
On Monday, the rookie quarterback — and Fields’ parents — showed up at Morrow’s home to say hello. They delivered him a navy Fields jersey and posed for pictures with a smiling Morrow on his front lawn. Morrow excitedly posted them on social media.
It was a caring gesture from Fields — and good public relations. It also underscored the popularity Fields has enjoyed since the Bears traded up to draft him No. 11 overall in late April.
That attention goes into hyperdrive this week.
Fields — with his fellow rookies and quarterbacks — will arrive to camp at Halas Hall on Saturday. Once the full roster checks into camp Tuesday, Fields figures to be the most watched Bears player in a preseason practice since rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky four years ago — and, before then, maybe a decade, given that Khalil Mack arrived after the 2018 camp.
When the Bears hold their first camp practice Wednesday, Fields will have every throw scrutinized by coaches and media. Fans who arrive for any of the 14 practices in which they can attend will want to see Fields first.
Those same fans made Fields’ navy jersey the NFL’s third-most popular, in terms of sales, in the month after the draft. Fields’ orange jersey ranked fourth, and the white one ranked fifth. When the Bears host the Dolphins in their first preseason game Aug. 14, there’s no question that more fans will be wearing Fields’ No. 1 than any other player jersey.
Given the area’s Big Ten footprint, Bears fans already have seen more of Fields at Ohio State than they ever did when Trubisky was at North Carolina.
All eyes will be on Fields. But that, amazingly, should feel familiar.
“I’m made for this,” Fields said during rookie minicamp. “I’m built for this. It’s nothing new to me.”
Of the many traits that separate him from Trubisky is exactly that: the spotlight he has had to embrace since before he could drive.
In his junior year in high school, Fields was seen by most recruiting services as the No. 2 prep quarterback in America, behind only future No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence. In 2017, Fields won the Elite 11 camp competition, a gathering of the nation’s top high school passers.
Fields was heralded as one of the best signings in the nation when he chose to stay home and play for Georgia. When he transferred after a year, he landed at Ohio State, one of the few programs in the nation whose fans can match the Bulldogs’ passion. All he did there was go 20-2, with his only losses coming to Alabama in the national championship game and Clemson in the national championship semifinals.
There’s no way to prepare Fields for the pressure awaiting him in Chicago — to be the franchise’s first elite passer since Sid Luckman, who last played in 1950; to be the first Bears player to throw for 4,000 yards in a season; and to win the team’s first playoff game in 11 years and first Super Bowl in 37. But Fields’ high school and college résumés make him the most qualified rookie quarterback the franchise has ever drafted to try to take down those ghosts. The only players who come close are Rex Grossman, who finished second in Heisman Trophy voting in 2001, and Jim McMahon, who was third in 1981.
The Bears have rushed to tamp down the expectations that were set into motion the minute they drafted Fields. Last month, to emphasize that he will have to learn behind Andy Dalton, coach Matt Nagy even declared that Fields has no chance to start in Week 1.
The hype train, though, already had left the station.
This week, after three months of expectations, it will start to pick up speed.