Arkush: Tackle Jordan Mills is Bears' best story
Marc Trestman finally getting his shot as an NFL head coach and the early success he's enjoyed is one of the best stories in the NFL this year.
Early signs that Jay Cutler could be preparing to turn a corner after seven years in the league is a big deal too. And Kyle Long earning his spot as a Week 1 starter his rookie year, after starting just four Division I games, has been huge.
But the best story to emerge so far from these Bears has to be the arrival of Long's next-door neighbor, Jordan Mills, as the team's starting right tackle.
Mills was the Bears' fifth-round draft pick out of Louisiana Tech, and it was unclear when they drafted him whether they expected the college tackle to stay there or be a guard in the NFL.
At minicamp, his odds of even making the team were probably less than 50-50. Now, like Long, he's been a starter since Week 2 of the preseason. I would argue, while both have unlimited futures, at this stage Mills is probably the more accomplished player.
I asked the youngster after practice Friday whether he's been able to enjoy his early success and what it all means to him?
"It's really humbling," Mill said. "Coming in here, I just wanted to help my teammates as much as I could, and I ended up a starter. ... To be around these fans, my teammates, this coaching staff and the history of the Chicago Bears, which is like no other, it's breathtaking, and at times I have to just step back, take a moment and look where I'm at. It's incredibly humbling to be where football actually all started."
To Bears fans who've longed for heroes who actually get what it means to be a Chicago Bear, welcome Mills.
What has been so eye-opening to me has been Mills' technique, polish and seemingly innate feel for the game. It's the one area where he's definitely ahead of Long.
When I asked him about the challenge of his first road trip and facing a 3-4 defense for the first time, he immediately talked about technique.
"It's a huge challenge, because I'm not going against the slimmer, faster base 4-3 defensive ends. I'm going against the bigger, stronger guys. So this is more of a technique game. You have to have great technique against a 3-4 defense. You can't just blow off the ball like I would do against a 4-3 end. You're not going to move guys like Vince Wilfork or Dan Hampton when he was here, with just size or strength. They're huge and strong and you're just not going to move them without great technique."
Equally impressive about Mills is how he defers to his veteran teammates and even Long with almost every answer he gives. Talking about his first road trip and playing in Pittsburgh, he said, "I know it's prime time, Sunday night. I know everybody in the world's going to be watching, but I'm just gonna' be around my teammates, the veterans you know, soaking up the moment and getting ready to go to battle against the Pittsburgh Steelers and hopefully we'll come out on top."
To be clear, it's not as if Mills came from nowhere. Louisiana Tech plays in the Western Athletic Conference, and the WAC produces its share of NFL players.
But the leap from there to the NFL is a heck of a lot greater than, say, coming from the SEC, Big Ten or Pac 12, and the ease with which he's made the transition, the quality of the young man we've seen so far, and the seemingly limitless upside make him one of the best Bears stories I've seen in a number of years.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.