Courtesy of Benedictine University
LISLE, Ill. -- Matt Fleming, a national champion at Benedictine in track and field and a second team all-conference football player, has been signed by the Chicago Bears of the National Football League after attending minicamp.
Fleming impressed in this weekend's rookie minicamp, making such an impression that first-year head coach Matt Nagy mentioned him by name in his post camp remarks and signed him hours later.
"I think the one kid that stood out was Matt Fleming," Nagy said. "Not a real big kid but he made his assignments, did his job, made some nice catches."
Fleming applied for the draft a year early but was unselected before receiving the invite to minicamp. Fleming was among a group of 70 players to partake in the minicamp. Eight veterans and 35 rookies went into the camp unsigned. The Bears signed four rookies and a veteran to the 90-man roster, an offensive lineman from the University of South Florida, a defensive back from Florida Atlantic, a defensive back from Western Illinois, a veteran of four NFL games, and Fleming. Three players from Division III signed free agent contracts following the draft while a handful received invites to rookie minicamps, which are geared toward acclimating newly drafted rookies to the NFL while others, like Fleming, are invited for tryouts.
"I found out they were going to sign me when I was about to leave minicamp," Fleming said. "I couldn't believe it and am ecstatic for the opportunity. People kept saying how impossible it was, but I kept blocking everyone out, trusting in God and believing it would happen."
The Chicago product earned All-America status four times in track and field. Fleming placed fifth in the long jump indoors in 2018 and took home fourth in 2017. The Simeon grad was part of the national championship 4x100 meter relay team on the outdoor circuit in 2017, also earning All-America honors in the outdoor long jump, helping Benedictine place fourth at the national championships after leaping to second.
"The legacy that Matt left on the track is one of the most impressive performances in program history," said director of track and field/cross country Kevin Paterson. "Going in to any race, relay or jump you knew something special could happen and was so fun to watch. What the Chicago Bears are getting is one of the most explosive competitive athletes I have ever been around. He's a young man that just wanted a chance to show his talents, and now that he has that chance, my bet is we see him play on Sunday's. I couldn't be more proud of this young man."
On the gridiron, Fleming established himself as a deep threat. Fleming reeled in 45 passes for 731 yards in 2017, catching 10 touchdowns. Fleming caught a pass in every game and finished with three 100-yard games. After catching only 11 passes in the first four games of the season, Fleming snared at least four in each of the final six games along with eight touchdowns. When the season came to a close with Benedictine posting a 7-3 record, Fleming was named Second Team All-Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference. Fleming burst on the scene in his first game as a freshman, gaining 115 yards on four catches with touchdowns of 41 and 65 yards. Fleming may also work as part of the kick return unit after returning six kicks this year. Fleming attended a pro day at Northwestern University, first exposing his skills to the scouts.
"Matt is one of the most talented kids I have coaching in my career," said Fleming's position coach at Benedictine, Charles Love. "His mindset was always focusing on the next level. I've seen a lot of growth these past two seasons from becoming a better student, leader, and ultimately a better player. I am so extremely proud of him signing with the Bears."
Joining the 90-man offseason roster for the Bears, Fleming will take part in the OTA (Organized Team Activities) this week. Training camp begins in mid-July, where Fleming will attempt to become one of 53 players to make the roster for 2018.