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Tight end Fendi Onobun eager to prove his worth to Bears
Some fun in the Florida sun suited Fendi Onobun. That his Bears teammates were there and that he’d have an opportunity to catch some passes from quarterback Jay Cutler made going only more desirable.
“I definitely wanted to take advantage of it,” Onobun said. “It was cool to go to South Beach and train.”
For Onobun, it’s all about taking that next step toward being a football player and no longer an athlete with a basketball background and football potential.
Being part of two Brandon Marshall-organized trips to Florida helped and so did spending the entire 2013 season on the Bears’ practice squad.
Onobun is part of the team. He just wants to contribute to it now.
“Even though I was on practice squad and didn’t play any games, my coaches did a good job of holding me accountable,” Onobun said. “That’s what last year was. I’m a better football player and more knowledgeable of the game.”
The 6-6, 260-pound Onobun is a wild card when considering all the cards coach Marc Trestman has been dealt for his offense.
The Bears need a pass-catching option at tight end to accompany starter Martellus Bennett. And Onobun, a longtime friend and high school teammate of Bennett’s, may be in the best position to be it with the draft approaching. Of all the tight ends on the Bears’ roster, Onobun still is the most similar to Bennett.
The Bears may be Onobun’s sixth NFL team, following the Rams, Seahawks, Redskins, Jaguars and Bills, but they’ve also demonstrated the most commitment to him.
Onobun was waived after some up-and-down moments in training camp and the preseason, but the Bears quickly re-signed him to the practice squad and later to a reserve/future contract.
The Bears saw what other teams saw: an athletically gifted player with a basketball background that fits the mold of the modern tight end.
It’s just that Onobun, who played four years of basketball at Arizona, still required time. After all, he didn’t start playing football until he was 23 at the University of Houston; he’s 27.
“This is a very special situation,” Onobun said. “This is the longest I’ve been with an organization. It’s the consistency and the opportunity to come back after being in this offense for a year.
“It’s like coming back for your sophomore year. You understand a lot more. Jumping from team to team, I would learn this playbook, that playbook, this system, that system. It’s been pretty consistent for me [with the Bears], which helps.”
Onobun’s plan now is to reward that commitment.
By all accounts, the work that Onobun, a soft-spoken type, is putting in is impressive. He’s also benefited from being around Bennett and Marshall for a full season.
“Watching how they approach their work and seeing the things they do, it’s really been a help,” Onobun said. “It’s helped me develop a system for myself to be successful.”
Onobun said he feels he’s grown by “leaps and bounds.” His awareness and understanding of football has improved. He’s grown comfortable with its physicality. He’s now accustomed to route running.
“Instead of being an athlete, it’s be a football player,” Onobun said. “That’s the biggest thing I’m really looking forward to this year, just turning my skill set into a football skill set and how I can be a better football player as opposed to just an athlete out there running and catching a football.”
But his work is far from over. He stresses that incessantly.
“I’m dedicated to getting better,” Onobun said. “My job is just to win the day.”
Some of those days, of course, were spent in Florida with his teammates.
“It was a great opportunity to spend some with the guys and throw with Jay and just work on my game,” Onobun said.
“I really believe in myself and my abilities. It’s just translating what we do in shorts into pads.”