Late Thursday night in the Bears' locker room, a young man surrounded by scores of massive football players stood in solitude, checking his phone and responding to texts.
Jordan Lynch was just another NFL rookie alone at his locker. He was just another undrafted free agent trying to find his place in the league, hoping to get noticed, hoping to make a team.
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On Thursday, he was just hoping to touch the football.
He did not.
I thought back to the first week of December last year, when Northern Illinois was a win away from a second straight BCS bowl. A victory in the MAC title game and the Huskies would have been headed for the Fiesta Bowl.
Lynch had climbed to second in some unofficial Heisman polls, and there was speculation among East Coast forecasters that if Jameis Winston's legal problems escalated that week and Lynch posted another monster game, well, the Heisman might have even been up for grabs.
Of course, it didn't end well for the Huskies, but Lynch got his trip to New York, finished third in Heisman voting, and the last two years of his collegiate career will go down as two of the best in history.
Jordan Lynch was a national star.
I thought about all that as I saw Lynch alone at his locker Thursday night.
The NFL can swallow up the biggest stars from the biggest collegiate programs, let alone a player from a MAC school searching for a position.
I watched Lynch in the first half as he stood with the running backs on the sideline, holding his helmet, listening to the play calls and watching plays delivered and executed.
I watched Lynch in the second half as he stood with the running backs on the sideline, now with his helmet on, listening to the play calls and watching the plays delivered and executed.
Unlike the first preseason game, Lynch did not get an opportunity to show he can play running back in the NFL.
There is so much about this that's new to him.
It's a new league with new plays, schemes, teammates and coaches, all while learning a new position.
But Lynch is not one to flinch.
"It's been great so far. All of it," Lynch said Thursday, demonstrating the same attitude he's always displayed. "I'm just coming to work every day and get as much out of every day as I can, make the most of this opportunity.
"There's a lot to get used to as a running back, blocking schemes and all that, but I talk to Matt (Forte) and ask a lot of questions and he's been really helpful."
And Lynch is not getting caught up in the numbers, which clearly don't favor him.
"I just go about my business and try to get better every day," he said. "I've never been one to worry about things out of my control. I just try to do my job and improve every day."
The locker next to Lynch belongs to Senorise Perry, who in the final 2:10 of Thursday's game caught 2 passes for 30 yards and had 2 carries for 10 yards, including a 5-yard run for the game-winning touchdown.
There were 20 people around Perry's locker once he arrived, forcing Lynch to move aside.
This is a man who was onstage for Heisman ceremony pictures in December, and now he was being stepped over by cameramen and reporters wanting to talk to another undrafted rookie running back.
In a nutshell that's the NFL, where everyone matters until they don't, and everyone is someone until they're not.
Lynch is headed for the practice squad, unless another team wants him on the roster, but you have to figure the Bears had a plan here, that they think in a year or two Lynch will be a viable NFL running back.
Otherwise, why did they bother? It wasn't for publicity. They don't need it, and Marc Trestman has zero interest in it.
So Lynch will keep working wherever he is, believing at all times that he will prove wrong anyone who believes he doesn't belong.
A star in high school, only one university recruited him to play quarterback.
He spent the next several years trying to prove that he was worthy of a chance to play, to quarterback a BCS bowl team, to earn a trip to New York.
And now, Jordan Lynch is once again trying to become someone that matters.
At least that part of it is nothing new for him.
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