SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — tyson bagent It may be the NFL’s biggest underdog success story in 2023.
He was not supposed to become Martinsburg High School’s starting quarterback.
He was not the favorite to run Shepherd University, let alone produce record numbers. on his way to the Harlon Hill Award, the Division II equivalent of the Heisman.
And Bagent certainly wasn’t expected to do the chicago bears‘Squad of 53 men. How many Division II undrafted free agent quarterbacks, even one as prolific as Bagent, do that?
“A lot of people talk about … you have to be a unicorn to get to that level,” Bagent said during a fundraiser breakfast Saturday hosted by the Shepherd Gridiron Club before the Rams’ season opener against Southern Connecticut State. . . “But quickly what I found out is that it’s not really any different. The speed of the game I’m playing now, it wasn’t some ridiculous adjustment from Shepherd to the NFL. The biggest thing was, could you handle the mental overload they’re giving you? Can you understand it?
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How did Bagent get here?
As a freshman at Martinsburg in 2014, Bagent was, by his own admission, “5-8, chubby, slow, didn’t stand much of a chance.”
“As soon as I get there, there are five guys in front of me,” Bagent said. “A lot of people said I could never play quarterback. You can’t really blame them… Thankfully, by my sophomore year I had grown to 6-1, won the job, had a solid season that year and won two championships. state”.
Bagent passed for 7,800 yards and 112 touchdowns as a Bulldog. Division I FBS programs turned a blind eye to him during recruitment.
“I didn’t get the offers that I thought I would get out of high school, but with that, I really didn’t want to leave home anyway,” Bagent said. “So it was very easy for me to decide to come play for Shepherd.”
Bagent had to prove himself again as Ram.
“Despite what Coach (Ernie) McCook may or may not say, they also brought another quarterback with me my first year who more than half the coaching staff thought was better than me,” Bagent said. “Despite what anyone may say, I didn’t just walk the red carpet. There were people who thought I was better than me and luckily I was able to work very hard to win the starting job.”
Bagent clinched the spot and led Shepherd on the most successful streak in program history, with back-to-back national semifinal appearances in 2021 and 2022. Set NCAA all-division career record for touchdown passes (159) and the Division II record for passing yards (17,034).
As a junior, Bagent won the Harlon Hill Award after throwing for 5,000 yards and 53 touchdowns.
“These have been the best years of my life, being close to my family, playing the sport I love and being able to get national recognition,” Bagent said. “It was everything you could ever dream of.”
Prior to the NFL Draft, Bagent excelled in the Senior Bowl and performed well in both the NFL Combine and the NFL Combine. and Shepherd’s Career Day. There was talk that he would be a late-round pick.
“The draft happens, and once again I’m an underrated guy and I go undrafted,” Bagent said. “It was bittersweet, but once I made the deal (as an undrafted free agent) with the Bears, that all went out the window because all I could have asked for coming out of a D2 school is to get my foot in the door. and have the opportunity, and as many people will have seen, I have done everything possible to make the most of that opportunity.
master mind games
To Bagent’s surprise, the physical challenge of making it to the NFL came relatively easily.
“I’ve played so many amazing games here (at Shepherd), so many meaningful games, so many high-stakes games, that really set me up for the next step, which has been very worthwhile,” Bagent said. “Anything physical was so much easier. They pay guys a lot of money and they want to keep them safe, so you never end up wearing your body down, which was new to me because that’s how I’ve lived my whole life. “Every day I try my best.”
The brain challenge? That was something else entirely.
“The hardest part was understanding the playbook,” Bagent said. “You can’t really put a number on (the plays), but there are 110 pages of passing plays and 140 pages of running plays, and everything can be done differently than how it’s drawn on those pages. It’s not even a playbook, it’s an iPad. and they keep uploading stuff.”
Bagent said he spent the month between OTAs and boot camp working with a friend for two hours each morning to master the language of the works.
“The first play of my NFL career against the Titans was ‘Gun Y Mode Trips Right Tight Toss 38 Support, can 39 Wanda for a box issues’ and that’s just one run, that’s just one sweep,” Bagent said with a laugh. and amazement. fourth. “The hardest thing early on was I could barely finish the play … and then (Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy) was like, ‘Hey, we want to make this 2 High,’ but that’s while I’m processing everything.” . he just told me, so you may initially find yourself coming to the line and be paralyzed thinking about it.
“There were a lot of days where I would cry myself to sleep stressing out learning these plays. It was a complete dogfight to be able to say those plays the way I do.”
Bagent’s play in training camp and preseason games, in which he completed 20 of 29 passes for 156 yards and one interception and rushed for two touchdowns, convinced the Bears to keep him on the 53-man roster.
How did you find out?
“They didn’t talk to me, that’s how you know you’re on the team,” Bagent said, drawing more laughter. “It was crazy. You’d see that during those two days of blackouts, you’d constantly see guys called out in front of you…and then (after the meeting) you’d see the guy take off his name tag and ‘”Go ahead with whatever come next.”
returning to the shepherd
Bagent was excited to be back home and on campus on Saturday.
“I’ve been cooped up in my hotel room for the last month, so now that I’m home and have complete freedom with my family, I get to watch Shepherd play today, I get to watch Martinsburg play last night, this is pretty surreal. It was a amazing weekend for me,” Bagent said.
Proceeds from the breakfast, tickets for which are $150, will go towards the TB2 Tyson Bagent Scholarship Fund.
“That scholarship was generated by a lot of people in this room two years ago, when Tyson won Harlon Hill,” McCook said. “We will continue to build on that scholarship for years to come.”
“He’s a local hero,” said Shepherd’s vice president of athletics, Chauncey Winbush. “I can’t express how proud we are of him.”
This article originally appeared in The Herald-Mail: Tyson Bagent returns to Shepherd as Chicago Bears QB