NFC North Reporter
On Oct. 22, 2022, Tyson Bagent was in West Chester, Penn. playing West Chester college in a noon game in front of 2,000-some odd fans. He led Division II Shepherd University to 47-14 win after throwing for 296 yards and three touchdowns.
Exactly a year later, Bagent led the Chicago Bears to a convincing 30-12 win over the Las Vegas Raiders in his first NFL start with over 60,000 people in attendance. Bagent completed 21 of 29 pass attempts for 162 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. It was Chicago’s first home win since September 25, 2022.
What a difference 365 days make.
Bagent was an undrafted free-agent rookie when he arrived in Chicago. The 23-year-old from Martinsburg, WV. had never really left home before that. Shepherd University was less than 10 miles down the road from his hometown. Bagent’s parents still live there, where his dad Travis, a 17-time arm-wrestling champion, operates a Crossfit gym. That was part of Bagent’s backup plan to the NFL, in fact.
“Yeah, I was basically just going to Crossfit my life away,” Bagent said. “Basically, just get as ripped and jacked as I possibly could and be a teacher at Martinsburg High School.”
Instead, Bagent earned an invitation to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. this past January. There, fortuitously, he was coached by Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.
“In the beginning of the [Senior Bowl] week, I kind of thought he was a nervous dude, but I think it was because he was working his tail off so much,” said Getsy to chicagobears.com. “By the time we got to Wednesday, Thursday, I saw a guy ready to rock and roll.”
Bagent completed 17 of 22 pass attempts in the game for 138 yards. Four months later, Chicago came calling and signed him in May.
“You can just kind of notice there’s been a lot more questions of ‘Hey, man, where’s your school from? What’s it called?’ Little things like that,” said Bagent after his last preseason game with the team back in late August.
From there, Bagent beat out resident backup Nathan Peterman and free-agent signee P.J. Walker for the No. 2 job behind quarterback Justin Fields. Both Peterman and Walker had guaranteed money from the team. Bagent would have been a cheap cut. Instead, the unknown rookie won the Bears coaching staff over with his football IQ and athleticism. Should the worst happen, Bagent would be able to seamlessly take over the offense.
‘Definitely had nerves today’ –Tyson Bagent on first career win against Raiders
“He understands the play design,” head coach Matt Eberflus said after the game. “He understands where it’s supposed to go, and he gets rid of it in a timely fashion. Even when it was off schedule, in terms of the pressure, he was able because he’s athletic enough to be able to evade.
“He’s a rhythm and timing passer and he’s got all the ability to do all those things.”
True enough, against a questionable Raiders defensive game plan, Bagent took everything that was there for him. It wasn’t flashy — his average completed air yards per completion is just 3.3 this season and no pass traveled beyond 17 yards even with a receiver’s yards after the catch factored in on Sunday.
Chicago was still able to execute a comprehensive game plan with Bagent getting through his progressions like a savvy vet. Getsy was even able to call a certain screen pass that he’d been wanting to roll out for weeks. At halftime, he wrote it on the whiteboard as one of the plays he wanted to incorporate in the second half.
“The screen is one of them that stands out, and I think we couldn’t have executed it any better,” said Bagent. “That’s been on the call sheet for a couple of weeks. For [Getsy] to have the confidence in me, the O-line, everybody to execute — kind of a high-risk play, when you’re throwing the ball back across the field. I thought it was great.”
Chicago put tight end Robert Tonyan in motion to the right side of the formation, aligning him tight to the formation alongside fellow tight end Cole Kmet. Bagent then rolled to his right, taking much of the defense with him to the side with the extra blockers. But Bagent then threw to the other side of the field where running back D’Onta Foreman was waiting. Foreman caught the ball and the time spent on the fake allowed three offensive linemen to get into position to block for Foreman down the field. It was a 17-yard gain. It ended up being the Bears’ longest play of the game.
Perhaps the best thing about Bagent is the confidence and swagger he exudes. For someone who surprised many in training camp, teammates included, one person who isn’t surprised at all is Bagent himself.
“I feel as if I’ve proved that I belong in the league,” Bagent said back in August. “But I think more than anything just the hope and motivation I’m providing for my siblings and the people back home is really what I kind of sit back and think about when I think about just the whole camp and preseason and how everything has just fallen into place.”
His first time to the podium in preseason looked like it was his 100th time. He seems to simultaneously know that what he’s doing is a huge deal while downplaying the noise that comes with it.
“I’ve got a bunch of friends, a bunch of family that understand how big this was, just really in life,” Bagent said. “Not a lot of people get to say they started an NFL game, let alone win an NFL game.”
And when asked how he would deal with that news surrounding him following his first NFL win on Sunday, Bagent simply said: “It’s real easy to turn your phone off.”
After the win, Bagent did what he’s done his entire career. He greeted his friends and family, all 53 that were in attendance, and celebrated a win as if it was any other. Only this time, all of Chicago was celebrating with him, too.
Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.
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