Jeff Vorva Times correspondent
Before he grew to be a 6-foot-6, 300-pound lineman, Orland Park’s Michael Schofield was a receiver when he played football for the Orland Park Pioneers while in grade school age.
The first NFL jersey he owned was of Bears receiver Marty Booker.
“I grew up a big Bears fan,” said the Sandburg High School and Michigan grad. “I’ll never forget the (2007) Super Bowl when (Devin) Hester returned the opening kickoff and all of that stuff.
“I remember all of that with (Brian) Urlacher, (Lance) Briggs, Olin Kreutz and all of those guys back in the day.”
Schofield wondered whether he would ever play for the Bears and the answer came on July 25 when the 31-year-old signed a one-year deal with his hometown heroes.
“I always wanted to land here,” he said. “It’s definitely a dream come true.
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“It’s a wonderful opportunity. It’s a young team. It’s an exciting team and I think we can do a lot of things.”
The Bears are going through some changes with new general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus trying to make an impact right away.
The offensive line was one of their biggest question marks. After they signed Schofield, they inked veteran Riley Reiff the next day, right before training camp started.
“We’re in a much better spot with those two guys on our roster than we were 24 hours ago,” Eberflus said during his first camp press conference.
Schofield was a third-round draft pick in 2014 by Denver and didn’t play his rookie season.
But injuries to the Broncos — plus a head coaching change — allowed Schofield to get some time on the line in 2015. He made 13 regular-season starts and was a postseason starter protecting Peyton Manning as the Broncos won the Super Bowl that season.
Schofield played one more season with the Broncos and headed west for three seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers before a 2020 stint with Carolina and back with the Chargers last year.
He has played in 102 career regular season NFL games with 5,533 snaps and 81 starts.
Time was ticking during the off-season, and he wasn’t sure what his future in football would be until he got the call for a July 24 workout.
“It was tough,” he said of the waiting game. “I had an injury at the end of last season, and I was rehabbing a lot. As an older guy, that’s always in the back of your head. Teams might be nervous about me.
“There’s nothing you can do except put your head down and work every single day and be in the best shape you can be when you get that call and be ready to go.”
The speculation is that the starting right guard’s job is his to lose but the next month or so will see how that plays out.
The Bears drafted four linemen this year and Schofield, 31, will be a mentor to them, even if they are all gunning for a starting job like he is.
“You want to be that leadership guy,” he said. “As an older guy, you want to be a good teammate and help them out as much as you can. And the end of the day, if they are doing better than you, they are pushing you to be better so it helps everyone.”
“Only five guys start and if you are not one of them, you push those five guys. That’s a win-win in my book.”
Schofield is married to Kendall Coyne Schofield, one of the best hockey players in the world. The two are part owners of the Chicago Red Stars professional women’s soccer team and they are active in the Chicago area doing good deeds through their Schofield Family Foundation.