Lake Zurich alum Sanborn makes a name for himself in second half of Bears preseason opener
During a Q&A with the media last week, Bears defensive coordinator Alan Williams was asked which linebackers have impressed him at training camp.
Oftentimes, coaches will deflect these type of questions and offer no names, but Williams happily heaped praise upon veterans Matthew Adams and Joe Thomas.
"But what about the young guys? Any of them standing out?"
Williams' answer to that follow-up was interesting because he simply talked more about Adams and Thomas.
Intended or not, it sent a message to the rest of the linebackers that, hey, it's time to step up.
And Jack Sanborn was apparently listening.
The undrafted rookie, who starred at Lake Zurich High School and Wisconsin, was the second-half star during the Bears' 19-14 preseason victory Saturday over the Chiefs at Soldier Field.
Sanborn picked off a pass, recovered a fumble and made some impressive tackles during the comeback win.
"He's a baller, and of course he showed it out there on the field today," quarterback Justin Fields said.
For the Badgers last season, Sanborn had 5 sacks and finished second with 91 tackles, 16 of which were for a loss. He also had 5.5 sacks and 3 interceptions as a sophomore in 2019.
Many pundits figured Sanborn would be drafted in the late rounds, but a 4.73 40-yard dash time at the combine likely scared teams away.
Shortly after the draft ended, the Bears reached out and signed the 6-foot-2, 234-pounder.
The Bears trailed 14-0 at halftime Saturday, but that quickly changed after Sanborn intercepted a pass and returned it 13 yards to the Chiefs' 27-yard line.
"It was cool," Sanborn said. "I wish I would have had it in my hands for a little longer, but it is what it is."
Six plays later, the Bears cut the lead to 14-6 when QB Trevor Siemian hit RB Trestan Ebner for a 12-yard TD pass.
On the Chiefs' next drive, Sanborn pounced on a fumble to once again set the Bears up in fantastic field position. Siemian took advantage, this time connecting with Dazz Newsome on a 13-yard TD pass.
Sanborn also swallowed up Chiefs TE Jordan Franks on a third-and-16 play late in the game and stood out on special teams.
Sanborn would have a difficult time winning a starting spot at linebacker this season, but he could easily make the team if he continues to stand out on punt coverage. It's a role he performed quite well with the Badgers.
"At Wisconsin, it's a huge honor if you're on the punt team," Sanborn said during rookie minicamp in May. "It's kind of a chosen unit there. ... I learned a lot of things from it."
As for how Sanborn, who grew up a Bears fan, felt before making his pro debut?
"I knew it was coming, but it was still kind of a weird little feeling," he said. "I don't think I was super nervous, though, because of what we do each day and how we practice. ... It felt like we were all prepared out there and I think it showed."
The Bears took Sunday off and return to practice at Halas Hall at 10 a.m. Monday. Their second preseason game is at Seattle on Thursday, and they'll wrap up the preseason at Cleveland on August 27.