The Bears are giving former NFL star Eddie George and veteran coach Randy Shannon a unique opportunity during the third and final phase of their offseason program.
George and Shannon are working with the club during OTAs as part of the NFL's Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship. The program's objective is to give individuals a chance to observe, learn and gain experience to help them ultimately land an NFL coaching job.
George, a four-time Pro Bowl running back during a nine-year NFL career with the Titans (1996-2003) and Cowboys (2004), is entering his third season as head coach at Tennessee State.
"I've known about the Bill Walsh Fellowship program for a few years now, even while I was playing, and it gives me an opportunity to see this organization," George said.
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"Me being relatively new to coaching, I'm able to sit in on a lot of different meetings from medical to equipment to physical training, staff meetings, scheduling, operations; the whole gamut of the business and understand it from that perspective, as well as game-planning and on-the-field stuff too. It's been great in that capacity."
George spoke to Bears players during a team meeting last Wednesday.
"It was just about my football life and the opportunity it provided me," he said. "And that you shouldn't take a day for granted or this opportunity for granted. It's tough to get in this room, very hard to get in any room [in the NFL], but it's tougher to stay."
George detailed his four pillars of success: 1) Stay physically fit and invest in your body; 2) Surround yourself with the right people; 3) Have a spiritual relationship with God; and 4) Possess a championship mindset and laser-sharp focus.
"Our guys gleaned a lot of information from him and constantly are asking him questions," said coach Matt Eberflus. "It's been pretty cool to have him around. He's just enjoying himself and we're enjoying having him here. He's a wealth of knowledge and we're getting as much information from him as he is from us."
George will only be with the Bears for a few weeks but hopes to soak in as much as he can.
"Being in the mix right now is like trying to get a sip of water out of a fire hydrant that's gushing out water," George said. "I just have to find my place and try to immerse myself as much as I can and just build relationships; get to know the staff, get to know the janitor, the security person, the people that really make this place go and that really drive the culture here. That's very important to me."
One of George's highlights so far during his time at Halas Hall was a meeting with Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren. George was impressed with Warren's attention to detail and mission to transform the Bears in a championship organization.
While George is relatively new to coaching, Shannon boasts 31 years in the profession, 28 in college and three in the NFL-all as a Dolphins defensive assistant from 1998-2000. The head coach at the University of Miami from 2007-10, he is entering his third season at Florida State and second as co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach.
Despite Shannon's three decades of experience, he's still finding the time he's spending with the Bears to be invaluable.
"It's been tremendous and very fun," he said. "It's a great opportunity, a great chance to meet people and learn football and also see how operations are run ... Whether it's small or big, anything that you can take back with you is a tremendous help to make you a better coach and also a better person."
This is the second time that Shannon has worked with the Bears as part of the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship; he previously spent part of an offseason in the 1990s with the team in Lake Forest when Dave Wannstedt was coach.
As a player, Shannon was a four-year letterman at linebacker for the University of Miami and starter on Miami's 1987 national championship team. He was selected by the Cowboys in the 11th round of the 1989 draft and became the first rookie to start at outside linebacker for Dallas since 1963, opening all 16 games.
Just like in previous years, the Bears will welcome six additional Bill Walsh Diversity Coaches to join them for veteran minicamp and training camp. In the meantime, the team is benefiting from working with George and Shannon.
"It's great to have those guys here, [with] their wealth of experience as players and as coaches," Eberflus said. "We're certainly leaning on those guys for that information that they have."