It's a lifelong dream of many football players to suit up for their hometown team. Right now, Chicago Bears linebacker T.J. Edwards is living this dream.
Edwards signed a three-year, $19.5 million deal with the Bears this offseason, per ESPN. Before turning his dream into a reality, Edwards was just a kid from Lake Villa, a town approximately 50 miles north of Chicago.
At Lakes Community High School, Edwards wrote the first chapter of his athletic career. He played football and basketball at Lake Villa, becoming a hometown hero in the process. Edwards was a point guard on the basketball team. But football was always his strong suit.
You'd expect Edwards to play linebacker in high school. Believe it or not, Edwards' position was quarterback, according to his MaxPreps profile. He didn't start on defense until his senior year, when he played three games at safety while assuming the role of starting quarterback, as well.
A true two-way player, Edwards was willing to do whatever it takes to win. If that meant slinging a pass one play and then making a tackle on the next, he was up for the challenge.
Edwards came out of high school as a two-star recruit, per MaxPreps. He was recruited by the Wisconsin Badgers as a defensive prospect and eventually committed.
At Wisconsin, Edwards redshirted his freshman year. Eventually, with hard work and determination, Edwards rose up the depth chart and became the starting linebacker for the Wisconsin Badgers. The campus legend earned First-team All-American honors in 2017. He was named team captain in 2018.
During his tenure with the Badgers, the Big Ten powerhouse went 42-12 in the regular season and never lost a bowl game, per Edwards' college athletic page. He also logged 52 starts, second all-time in the school's history.
Despite his college success, Edwards went undrafted in 2019. Thankfully, his highlight reel caught the attention of the Philadelphia Eagles, who signed him as an undrafted free agent.
As an Eagle, not much was expected out of Edwards. He was seen as a reserve player with a large upside. But the Midwestern product fought the odds and ended up becoming a key contributor for the Eagles. The same work ethic that helped him rise up the ranks at Wisconsin helped him succeed in the NFL.
During his rookie year, he watched from the sidelines as the Eagles won the 2019 NFC East title. But it's what Edwards and Co. accomplished in 2022 that led to signing a hefty payday with the Bears.
In 2022, Edwards was the anchor of an Eagles defense that spearheaded them to the 2022 NFC title. Unfortunately, they suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. However, Edwards' impact was undeniable, nabbing 159 total tackles that season. It's the third most in Eagles' history, per ESPN.
Edwards was also part of a defense that hauled in 70 sacks, the third most all-time by a team in NFL history, per StatMuse.
After Edwards' stellar outing, the Eagles couldn't afford to keep him on the team. This led the standout linebacker to sign with the Chicago Bears, his hometown. Edwards is part of a Bears' free agent class full of winners.
If it weren't for the Eagles taking a chance on Edwards, who knows if he'd be playing for the Bears right now?
From his humble beginnings in Lake Villa, Edwards has finally made his way onto the Bears roster.
Regardless of what happens this season, it will be a well-deserved homecoming for one of Chicago's own.