I started following the Bears in 2006 when they shuffled their way down to South Beach to take on the Sherrif and the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl 41. Growing up in Indiana, my family hosted a Super Bowl party that night and everyone was in their Colts jerseys. Being the rebel I was, I decided to root for the opposite team and immediately fell in love with Devin Hester for obvious reasons. But the second most beloved player that night for me was Brian Urlacher. Dude was tough, and he had a sick tattoo. Growing up, I was blessed to witness great linebacker play in Urlacher and Lance Briggs (another one of my all time favorites). And recently, watching Roquan Smith has been fulfilling until the recent trade. Since Smith left, I felt this burning question on who the next great linebacker for the Bears might be. And he may just be on the current roster.
Roquan’s replacement was immediately tabbed as Jack Sanborn. Many Bears fans may be unaware of who this un-drafted linebacker was, so let’s take a look at the linebacker who is making a splash since Smith has left.
Sanborn was born in Lake Zurich, Illinois which is a NW suburb of Chicago. Growing up a Bears fan, Sanborn attended Lake Zurich High School and went on to play linebacker at the University of Wisconsin. While at Wisconsin, Sanborn was a four year player from 2018-2021 and earned Third Team All-Big Ten in 2020 and First Team All-Big Ten the following year in 2021. During his Senior season, Sanborn recorded 89 tackles with 16 of them being for a loss and recorded 5 sacks. His play at linebacker was a huge reason the Badgers only allowed 16ppg during the season. With all the accolades Sanborn acquired at Wisconsin, it was unusual to see him go undrafted during the 2022 NFL Draft. With that being said, the Bears claimed him off waivers the day after the draft and he immediately made his presence felt during camp. His outstanding camp performance and preseason play earned him a spot on the 53 man roster. As the year played out, the coaching staff probably saw Sanborn as a special teams contributor and developmental piece, but how quickly things would change for Jack.
When Roquan Smith was traded, a huge void was left at the MLB spot. For how much flak Smith caught for his contract negotiations throughout the off-season, it was unarguable that he was a top 5 player at his position. Sanborn, who was behind Roquan on the depth chart to begin the season, was now going to be thrust into the starting lineup for the Week 9 against the Dolphins. He recorded 7 solo tackles that game and quickly cemented himself as the starting linebacker for the remainder of the season. The next week against the Lions, Sanborn had a coming out party and finished the game with 12 total tackles and 2 sacks against Jared Goff in a losing effort. He would follow up those numbers with a 9 tackle effort against at the Falcons and a whopping 15 tackle effort against the Jets last week.
One thing is for sure, Sanborn is fearless. He stepped into the shoes Roquan left behind and has filled them beautifully. He is a great tackler and trusts his instincts which is so key for that position. I’m not saying Sanborn is going to be the next legendary linebacker for the Bears and be compared to Urlacher and Butkus and Singletary. All I’m saying is that it has been cool to always have great linebacker play in my life watching the Bears and it’s even cooler seeing someone do it now who grew up a Bears fan. Here’s to more tackles from the hometown kid.