Cameron Meredith made four catches for 47 yards to lead the Bears in receiving Thursday at Soldier Field. It was the first time Meredith had ever been to an NFL game.
But that’s been the story of Meredith’s life—expect the unexpected.
The 6-3, 200-pound receiver has taken an unusual career path to land on the Bears’ preseason roster. In high school, he starred at quarterback for St. Joseph, a school known more for its hoop legends (Isiah Thomas, Evan Turner) than its gridiron greats.
The college scouts were few. Meredith opted to play for Illinois State, one school that showed persistent interest. Problem was, he arrived when Matt Brown was piling up stats that made him the Redbirds all-time leading quarterback.
So after redshirting a season, Meredith sat … and sat … until he finally hit the field on a regular basis his junior year at receiver. In 8 games he had 21 catches. As a senior, Meredith broke out with 66 catches for 1,061 yards and nine TDs.
Pro scouts took notice, but not enough to invite him to the NFL Combine.
Again, Meredith had to prove himself at the Northwestern Pro Day, where he turned enough heads to get several free-agent offers, including one from the Bears.
Meredith told Larry Mayer of Bears.com in May:
“I watched the draft just like everyone else and I was a little disappointed. But at the same time I want to use this opportunity to better myself and use that chip to take the next step in my career.”
While Meredith grew up a Bears fan and even attended a training camp as a kid, he never made it to Soldier Field for an NFL game.
Nate Atkins of “Chicago Football” wrote a wonderful story about Meredith’s journey. In it, Lonnie Meredith explains why his son never attended an NFL game:
“I always wanted to get him to a game and it never happened. Now, to see him out on that field, it’s a joy.”
It’s still pretty long odds that Meredith will make the Bears’ 53-man roster, but his performance on Thursday in the 27-10 victory over the Dolphins can’t hurt.
Then again, Meredith is used to beating long odds. As Atkins points out in his story:
He’ll think of his high school days at St. Joseph, suiting up as the starting quarterback for a football team that had lost 45 games in a row. He’ll think of the coaches who wouldn’t come to watch him and then the one from Illinois State who finally did, and the way he threw two interceptions in the first half of that game against Notre Dame College Prep while consumed by pressure, then settled down enough to lose a game and still win a preferred walk-on spot as a result of his composure.