Cornerback Isaiah Frey is visiting Chicago for the first time this weekend to participate in the Bears rookie minicamp. But the sixth-round draft pick from Nevada already feels at home.
Growing up in Sacramento, Frey had two dogs that were named “Bear” and “Payton” by his father, Demetryst Cornish, who idolized Walter Payton while playing running back in college.
Isaiah Frey intercepted five passes in 13 games last season for Nevada.
“He grew up loving Walter Payton,” Frey said. “That was his favorite running back. He played running back, so that’s why the Bears were his favorite team growing up.”
Frey’s father, who played at the University of Arizona as well as Sacramento State, was virtually speechless after the Bears selected his son with the 184th pick in the draft.
“He was in shock,” Isaiah said. “In a million years he didn’t think I would come here. The day I got drafted I found a Bears helmet my dad has. It’s real weird. It’s almost like a destiny thing.”
Frey doesn’t know any of his new teammates personally, but he’s especially excited about meeting Lance Briggs. The perennial Pro Bowl linebacker also grew up in Sacramento, and was named player of the year as a senior at Elk Grove High, where he played linebacker, running back and safety while also serving as a kicker and return specialist.
“The only person I have an idea about is Lance Briggs just because we’re from the same area,” Frey said. “He was a stud back in Sacramento and everybody knows about him. I’ve never met him; I’ve just heard stories about him.”
Something to prove: Rookie tackle James Brown , who signed with the Bears as an undrafted free agent, isn’t bitter that he wasn’t drafted—even though many analysts predicted he would be a mid-round selection. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Brown the 54th best player in the draft, while Pro Football Weekly had him 93rd.
“I really didn’t pay any attention to all the rankings and whatnot,” Brown said. “I’m just glad that I got picked up a team. I really didn’t have any expectations because going into the process I already knew things could go either way. I was just hoping for the best and expecting the worst.”
While not angry about not being drafted, Brown is determined to prove he belongs in the NFL.
“It’s really been what I’ve been going through my whole football career,” he said. “I’ve been overlooked a lot of times. There’s definitely a chip on my shoulder.”
Together again: Rookie safety Brandon Hardin , a third-round draft pick, is excited about reuniting with former Oregon State teammate Stephen Paea, a Bears 2011 second-round selection.
“It’s definitely awesome to see a fellow college player,” Hardin said. “We’re trying to represent Oregon State University, so it’s always nice to see him and I consider him a friend.”
Hardin missed all of last season with a broken shoulder. The last time he was on the field, he teamed with Paea, starting all 12 games at right cornerback in 2010 and recording 63 tackles and three forced fumbles.
“If I had one word to describe him, it would be a beast,” Hardin said. “He’s just strong as hell. When he was our d-tackle and I was playing corner, it was good knowing he was in there rushing the quarterback.”
Audition time: In addition to six draft picks and 11 undrafted free agents, 33 rookies will participate in this weekend’s minicamp on a tryout basis.