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The Mike-Rivera-Signs-With-Chicago Blog
Since childhood, Richie Reyes had tried to persuade best friend Mike Rivera to switch allegiances.
Since the two were seventh graders, playing youth football together in the Shawnee-Mission area, Reyes has been preaching the gospel of the Chicago Bears. When he could get a good sales pitch in, he did. When his family took a trip to the Windy City in high school, he brought Rivera back a Brian Urlacher jersey.
“He was always trying to convert me from a Chiefs fan,” Rivera said.
On Sunday night, thanks various developments during the NFL Draft, he just might have gotten his wish.
Rivera, a standout linebacker during his five-year Kansas University career, signed a free agent deal with the Chicago Bears, becoming one of two former KU players — along with fellow linebacker James Holt (San Diego Chargers) — to make the leap to the NFL.
In truth, the Bears’ offer was not exactly a shocking development. In the weeks leading up to the draft, Rivera had been in steady talks with the team, having spoken with multiple coaches in addition to visiting the team’s headquarters two weeks prior to the draft.
By the end of the draft’s seventh round, however, he was getting calls from teams with which he hadn’t even spoken — which meant lots of research in a short amount of time.
For each team that contacted him, there were a number of variables to consider: How crowded was the position? What did the linebacker depth chart look like? What type of defense did the team play? How many linebackers would it carry?
“You want to set yourself up in a situation where you can go in there and be successful and have a chance to (thrive),” Rivera said.
The best opportunity to do that, he determined, was with the Bears, a traditionally stout defensive team with a strong reputation for developing talent at the linebacking position.
“It’s amazing,” said Rivera, who plans to leave for a weekend mini-camp later this week. “... I’ve always wanted to have the opportunity to play at the next level. There’s still a lot of hard work to be done — this is still the beginning.”
For Reyes, news that his best friend would be joining his favorite team was delayed a bit on Sunday.
Reyes had planned to watch the second day of the draft with Rivera and his family before unexpected events caused him to alter his afternoon plans.
“He was going to come over and visit for Draft Day and kind of hang out,” Rivera said. “So he got (dressed) in his Bears jersey and his Bears sweatshirt to come over. And next thing you know, he gets a call from his wife: ‘Hey, we gotta go.’”
Turns out, Reyes’ wife had gone into labor, and so the two exchanged a trip to the Rivera home for a trip to the hospital, where she would later gave birth to the couple’s child.
Eventually, Rivera was able to reach his friend, and upon receiving the news that he had a new reason to cheer for his favorite team, Reyes reacted with predictable excitement. As Rivera put it, “He had a newborn baby and his best friend was going to the Bears.”
Not a bad Sunday.