BOURBONNAIS – After ending his four-year college football career at Illinois in 2012, Graham Pocic has endured his share of obstacles in an attempt to make it in the NFL.
But now his journey has brought him back to his home state after the Lemont High School graduate was signed by the Chicago Bears last week.
"It’s awesome," Pocic said. "A dream come true to be able to play in front of my family and friends. I’ve gotten a lot of support from all the people back home.
"I had a Bears jersey as a kid. Everyone’s dream is to play in the NFL, especially for your hometown team."
A year ago, the offensive lineman was in camp with the St. Louis Rams but ended up being placed on injured reserve after hurting his shoulder. Pocic stayed with the Rams until this spring when was then cut shortly after the 2014 NFL draft in May.
This time around, Pocic is getting a late start with his new team, which means a little extra time spent looking at the playbook.
"A lot of catching up, a lot of studying," he said. "This offense is pretty awesome; it’s fun for me to learn new offenses and everything. Good times, it’s what we like to do.
"St. Louis was more downhill stuff, but it’s all [the same stuff] you’ve ran before. It’s just a whole new language you have to learn. The hardest thing is probably learning the plays and getting used to playing football again; you have to knock the rust off the first few days. But it’s a huge opportunity and I’m happy to be here."
One change is that Pocic is seeing time on the right side of the line after playing mostly center at Illinois.
"Switching positions, playing right guard and right tackle – that’s a little bit of a learning curve," he said. "But other than that, it’s football. I've never really had one (a natural position). Played tackle in high school, a little tackle in college, mostly center in college, though. I think that helps out anybody if you can play multiple positions."
Pocic is making sure to soak up as much information from the Bears established players as possible.
"All the vets are awesome," he said. "They're really helpful, too, that’s a big thing. Each one of them pretty much has reached out to me, helped me out with things that they see that I’m doing wrong."
And though the 6-foot-7, 310-pounder might face long odds in making the final roster, he is not looking at it that way.
"I feel like I have every opportunity that everyone else has," Pocic said. "I just wasn't here as long so I have to play catch up."
Arthur Arkush contributed to this story