Tyson Bagent's track record of resilience and defying the odds might prove valuable in his third start for the Bears.

Vince Carbonneau
October 31, 2023  (10:02)

On the morning of Sunday, September 29, 2019, following an emotionally charged loss, the sophomore quarterback of Shepherd University found himself sitting quietly in the front row during the team meeting. Tyson Bagent had just set a school record with 41 completions against conference rival Kutztown, but the game had also seen him throw two interceptions. As the Rams gathered for practice that afternoon, Bagent approached Coach Ernie McCook with a heartfelt message.

"He said, 'Coach, I apologize for that game yesterday. I let the team down, and I will never let that happen again,'" McCook recalled. "He felt responsible for the loss, even though he had set a school record for completions and had done his part to win. He shouldered the blame, never pointing fingers or deflecting it away. He owned every aspect of the game, especially the interception that haunted him. In his mind, it was his duty to make that play and lead his team to victory."
From that point on, Shepherd University did not lose another game that season until the second round of the Division II playoffs.
Fast forward four years, and Tyson Bagent found himself once again taking responsibility for a loss. This time, there was no school record to soften the blow. Bagent made his second start as a quarterback for the Chicago Bears, struggling with three interceptions and failing to score a touchdown in a 30-13 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. It was the type of performance that cast a shadow over the feel-good story of the fourth Division II quarterback in the last two decades to start an NFL game. Only three quarterbacks had a worse QBR than Bagent's 23.0 in Week 8.
Nevertheless, the narrative had captured national attention in Week 7 when Bagent helped lead the Bears to a victory over the Las Vegas Raiders. Bagent was set to make his third start against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS) as Justin Fields, who was recovering from a dislocated right thumb, remained week-to-week and would return as the starter once healthy.
Bagent remained undaunted, stating, "I'm going to approach the week just as I always do. Everything stays the same."
After the loss to Kutztown, Bagent led Shepherd to eight consecutive victories. McCook praised him as the team's best player for four years, driven by a work ethic instilled by his father, a 17-time world arm wrestling champion. Bagent was not only the lone Division II player invited to the Senior Bowl but also one of just three invited to the NFL Combine. He had faced long odds before, but perhaps none quite like this.
The Bears, who had lost 16 of their last 18 games, were determined to assess Fields' potential because earning the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft would provide an opportunity to select USC QB Caleb Williams or North Carolina QB Drake Maye. Bagent would only play when necessary.
Bagent expressed, "This is all still new. I try to take things from every game. I learned a lot last week, and I'll learn a lot from this week. I'll keep learning from every game, whether I'm starting or not."
Following the victory over Las Vegas, Bagent received a game ball. He completed 21 of 29 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown without any turnovers. Fields stood proudly behind Bagent's locker as teammates cheered and celebrated the 23-year-old undrafted rookie. Bagent credited the support of those who had prepared him for that moment.
His journey began at Martinsburg High School, where coach David Walker, while uncertain if Bagent would start in the NFL as a rookie, believed his quarterback was far better than the lukewarm interest he had received during the college recruiting process. When Martinsburg's starting quarterback was injured in the second game of the 2015 season, 15-year-old sophomore Bagent stepped in and became the full-time starter. He led the team to consecutive undefeated state championships in 2016 and 2017, throwing for 7,759 yards and accounting for 93 total touchdowns in his senior year. Bagent was named West Virginia's Gatorade Player of the Year.
Some college coaches questioned Bagent's ability, citing that the ball didn't "pop" out of his hand, and his release was not quick enough. Others sought a more athletic quarterback. Walker, however, believed in Bagent's potential and was confident that the recruiters were overlooking his true abilities.
Bagent opted not to walk on at West Virginia and chose to attend Shepherd, following in the footsteps of his parents. He earned the starting quarterback position as a freshman and set a school record with 518 passing yards in his first start against Notre Dame College (Ohio), the reigning champions of the Mountain East Conference.
Bagent's journey continued with Shepherd, where he set 27 school and NCAA passing records during his four seasons. In 2021, as a junior, he won the Harlon Hill Award, the Division II equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
On September 24, 2022, with a Bears scout in attendance, Bagent led Shepherd to a come-from-behind victory against Kutztown. Down 20-14 at halftime, Bagent threw for 456 yards and accounted for four touchdowns in a 42-35 win. Scouts took notice, and it was evident that they recognized his potential.
One individual who played a pivotal role in exposing Bagent to NFL representatives was Jim Nagy, the executive director of the Senior Bowl. Nagy visited Shepherd to personally deliver an invitation to the prestigious college all-star game. What Nagy saw in Bagent reminded him of another small-school quarterback who would go on to have a successful career: Tony Romo from Eastern Illinois.
Nagy stated, "I'm not saying I thought he would have Tony's career, but there was a certain confidence about him. He had a great feel for the game, mobility, and the ability to make plays while on the move. He had excellent field vision, poise, and didn't get rattled when under pressure. There was a calmness about him. From the moment he arrived here, especially during our first practice on Tuesday, he looked like he belonged."
Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy was one of the coaches at the Senior Bowl, which played a part in Bagent signing with Chicago. After the organized team activities (OTAs) concluded in June, Bagent returned to West Virginia to prepare for training camp.
For six weeks straight, Bagent diligently worked to master the Bears' offensive playbook with the assistance of Michael McCook, his former college teammate and current Shepherd assistant. Bagent would stand in the middle of an empty football field with a wireless earpiece, and McCook would call in plays from his cell phone.
Each day, Bagent would go through mental simulations, including huddling up, ensuring everyone's correct positioning, motion, and making the necessary checks and adjustments at the line of scrimmage before executing the play in a timely manner. Even during a brief family vacation at the beach that summer, Bagent ensured that these practice sessions continued. He meticulously studied the script the night before to ensure seamless workouts. McCook would call Bagent's phone, playing the role of an offensive coordinator from afar.
McCook reflected, "The level of preparation for something as seemingly small as a two-hour practice script run-through in the middle of June made me realize that this guy is just different."
Bagent's relentless work ethic, determination, and the unwavering support of those who believed in him had brought him to the doorstep of the NFL, and he was determined to seize the opportunity.
Tyson Bagent's track record of resilience and defying the odds might prove valuable in his third start for the Bears.

Does Tyson Bagent have what it takes to be a successful NFL QB?

Yes2170 %
No930 %
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