LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) – Mitchell Trubisky didn’t see it coming either.
The Chicago Bears drafted their latest quarterback of the future in a stunner Thursday night, grabbing North Carolina’s Trubisky with the No. 2 overall pick after trading up a spot with the San Francisco 49ers and surrendering three draft choices to do it.
“I think it shows that they believe in me,” he said. “And I believe in what Ryan Pace and Coach Fox are doing in Chicago, and I can’t wait to be a part of it.”
There was some thought the Bears might wait a round or two before taking a quarterback after signing Mike Glennon last month to replace the departed Jay Cutler. Instead, they swapped picks with the 49ers and gave them a third- and fourth-round choice this year plus a third-rounder next year. It was a surprising move, particularly since San Francisco general manager John Lynch was ready to take Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas at No. 2.
The 6-foot-2, 222-pound Trubisky had little contact with the Bears leading up to the draft. He met with them at the combine and had another meeting with them around his pro day last month.
“It was just pretty much silence,” he said. “That’s why I’m surprised to hear my name called because we didn’t have a lot of contact. I just think they … were impressed with me at the Combine and my workout. But yeah, I haven’t had a whole lot of contact with them so that makes it so much more exciting.”
Trubisky had a breakout junior season for the Tar Heels last year. He set the single-season the school’s single-season record for yards passing (3,748), touchdowns (30) and total offense (4,056) in 2016. He ranked fifth in the country with a 68.0 completion percentage while throwing just six interceptions. He also ran for five touchdowns last season, after backing up quarterback Marquise Williams as a freshman and sophomore.
Even so, it was a surprising – and bold – move for the Bears. And it showed just how serious they are about solidifying a traditionally weak position for the team over the years.
“Oh my God, nothing like that’s ever come my way,” Jacksonville Jaguars executive vice president Tom Coughlin said of the trade.
The Bears finished last in the NFC North at 3-13 in their second season under general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox. Years of shoddy drafting combined with a long list of injuries exposed a glaring lack of depth. It all added up to Chicago’s lowest win total since the 1973 team went 3-11, the most losses since a 1-13 finish in 1969 and a busy offseason for a rebuilding team.
The Bears dumped Cutler after eight seasons and signed Glennon, giving them some leeway to wait on a QB. But Pace jumped at the opportunity to take Trubisky.
He might back up Glennon at first, though Chicago is counting on him to develop into the star quarterback the franchise has lacked so many seasons with his arm strength and quickness.
“Going to come in and learn as much as I can from Mike and the other veterans on the team. I mean I’m always going to compete and do my thing and push the guy in front of me and my teammates as well. When given my opportunity, I’m looking forward to take full advantage of it. It’s all about helping the Chicago Bears win and that’s what I’m looking forward to most.”
Trubisky ranks fifth at North Carolina in career passing touchdowns (41), sixth in yards passing (4,762) and seventh in total offense (5,201). He is the first quarterback drafted in the first round by Chicago since Rex Grossman was selected 22nd overall in in 2003.
There’s no doubt the Bears need to hit in a big way with Trubisky, given the mixed results with Pace’s first two first-rounders.
Receiver Kevin White, drafted seventh overall in 2015, has spent far more time on the sideline than the field. He missed his rookie season because of a stress fracture in his left shin and was limited to four games last year because of a fractured left fibula.
Linebacker Leonard Floyd, drafted ninth overall last year, showed some promise with seven sacks as a rookie. But he suffered two concussions late in the season.
Trubisky, meanwhile, said he can’t wait to get started with the Bears. Over a span of a few weeks two years ago, he tweeted messages supporting Aaron Rodgers and the rival Green Bay Packers. He insisted Thursday that his loyalties are with Chicago.
“I was never a Packers fan,” Trubisky said. “I don’t know when that tweet is from. It was probably one specific game. I’m a Chicago Bear now, so none of that matters.”