Entering his third season with the Chicago Bears, former NIU running back Garrett Wolfe is poised to make an impact. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner has all but promised there will be a role in the offense for the Huskies' all-time leading rusher, who led Chicago in special teams tackles last season.
Wolfe took some time after Monday's afternoon practice to talk with me about his role on the Bears, expectations, and keeping in touch with former NIU teammates following their successes.
Jerry Burnes: How's camp going so far for you?
Garrett Wolfe: It's going good. This is the best, the healthiest, I've felt in a long time.
JB: What do you look to improve on from last year?
GW: Just to become more of a complete football player. I think my role this year will be a little bit more specialized and that's something I'm very excited about. I'm very excited to have the opportunity to go in and compete.
JB: What kind of role do you see yourself having on the team and on the offense this year?
GW: I know I'll continue to be a special teams guy which is something I'm excited about. I also think I'm going to take more of a specialty role; more down specific, field position specific type of role. If that's something that's going to get the ball in my hands, I'm all for it.
JB: What kind of teammate has Jay Cutler been so far?
GW: He's been a great teammate. He's taken control of the offense, been a great leader and his knowledge of what we try to do as an offense has been very impressive. He's picked up the playbook, he understands it fully and has done a great job of leading the team thus far.
JB: What kind of improvements have you noticed with Matt Forte from his rookie season to his second season?
GW: Well, as far as training camp, I haven't noticed anything different. That's a testament to just how strong he was as a rookie as far as knowledge of the game, his approach to the game and his preparation. But so far, I haven't noticed anything different.
JB: What kind of goals do you have this year as both a team and an individual?
GW: I think our team goal definitely involves us going to the playoffs. The ultimate goal for every team is to make the Super Bowl, play in the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl. My goal as a player is to go out and stay healthy, number one, because when you're healthy and in great condition then there isn't anything you can't go out on the field and do. The main thing I want to do is be as healthy as possible so I can go out on the field and use my talents to the best of my ability and make things happen.
JB: When you came to the Bears a couple years ago, did you envision yourself having the role on special team that you had last year?
GW: I knew coming in that if you're not the starting running back, you're going to have to play special teams. It's something I had never done before and was a little reluctant to do. Now it's something that I'm excited to have the opportunity to go out and do.
JB: What was the feeling like last year getting your first NFL touchdown?
GW: It was weird because I didn't envision it coming in that way. I didn't envision coming in the form of a special teams touchdown.
JB: Are you able to keep in touch with any of the former NIU running backs?
GW: Oh yeah, me and Michael [Turner] keep in touch. Michael did a great job of being a leader by example during our time at Northern Illinois. He definitely left big shoes to fill throughout my collegiate career and I was excited to have that opportunity to not only follow him but to continue that tradition and that legacy. But I still talk to Michael, in fact I just talked to him probably about a month-and-a-half ago. He's doing well and I'm happy to see he's doing well.
JB: The past few years you have had the chance to play against Michael Turner, what's that been like?
GW: My first year he was a backup at San Diego. My second year, I was excited for the success that Michael had thus far in one season, granted I didn't want him to have that success against us. To see Michael and see how successful he's become is something I've always envisioned for him because Michael has always been a complete football player for a long time. He just didn't get the opportunity out in San Diego. Him having that opportunity now, I'm very excited for him. Very happy for him as well.
JB: What about some of the current NIU running backs such as Justin Anderson or Me'co Brown?
GW: I had an opportunity to meet Me'co when I went down for a game last fall. I don't really keep in contact with him. But Justin Anderson is a guy I've known since I was about seven years old, we actually went to the same grammar school growing up, from the same neighborhood, so me and Justin talk often.
JB: Were you disappointed at all last year when NIU, for the first time in nine seasons, did not have a 1,000-yard rusher?
GW: [hesitates] No, I mean, that's not something I really paid attention to. Granted when I was there it was very important for me to keep that tradition because I didn't want to be the guy who didn't continue that. But there's a different offensive scheme that's in place now, different head coach, different system at hand, and the numbers reflect that.
JB: How excited were you to see your former teammate Larry English go in the first round this year?
GW: I was very excited for Larry because I've seen what Larry has grown to become. When he came into Northern Illinois he was very talented, a very physically imposing guy, just as he was when he left. Seeing how far he has come and him being the same guy in the core, I was very impressed. To see him have the success he's had and also know how hard he's worked to get as far as he's come is something I was very excited about.