Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff: 22 Days with Matt Forte

Chicago Bears, Matt Forte
Chicago Bears, Matt Forte / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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Today the Chicago Bears will play their second preseason game, and while the team will take the field Saturday evening against the Indianapolis Colts, today also marks 22 days from the first Sunday of the NFL regular season. To celebrate the season's rapid approach, today's installment of Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff brings us to the life and career of the best player in franchise history to don the number 22, running back Matt Forte.

Matt Forte goes from Louisiana football star to Chicago Bears rookie

Hailing originally from Lake Charles, Louisiana, Matt Forte's football career began as a star running back for his Slidell High School team. There, Forte accumulated over 3,000 all-purpose yards as a varsity player, and had perhaps his best season as a junior, where he helped his squad post an undefeated record before making it to the state quarterfinals.

In each of his final two seasons, Forte recorded over 1,000 yards on the ground and added 48 receptions for five touchdowns to his high school rushing total. At the end of his senior season, Forte had accumulated an impressive high school resume as an offensive weapon, but despite his production, Forte was not regarded as a top prospect in the recruiting circuit and was officially listed as a fullback for college programs.

Despite garnering some interest from the then-Nick Saban-led LSU Tigers, Forte received few collegiate offers but eventually landed with the nearby Tulane University. There, Forte burst onto the college football scene and became perhaps the best back in school history. A four-year letterman, Forte was the team's starting running back for each of his final three seasons.

In each of his first two seasons with the team, Forte recorded over 800 total yards and logged a combined 11 offensive touchdowns, but as a junior, the back truly dominated. In 2006, Forte accumulated over 1,200 all-purpose yards, including over 850 as a rusher, and 10 total touchdowns. Despite missing the final two games of the season due to injury, Forte led the team in rushing and was named to the All-Conference USA team.

As a senior, Forte had an even more impressive season in 2007 and once again led his team in rushing with over 2,100 yards in 12 games. He added nearly 300 yards through the air, boosting his all-purpose total to 2,409 yards, and logged 23 touchdowns on the year, all of which came on the ground. Within his conference, he finished the season second in rush yards, rushing touchdowns, yards from scrimmage, and offensive touchdowns. Unfortunately, Tulane as a team struggled despite Forte's success during his career, and his senior campaign was no exception as the team ended with just four wins on the season.

Nonetheless, Forte was named First-Team All-Conference USA following the season and was even named to several All-American teams. Regarded as one of the nation's premier running backs, Forte elected to enter the ensuing 2008 NFL Draft after being named the year's Senior Bowl MVP. The Chicago Bears selected the Tulane star with the 44th overall pick during the second round, making him the team's second selection and just the sixth running back selected in his class.