CHICAGO — One of the best stories of the Bears’ 2023 preseason is one that’s being enjoyed in Chicago and in West Virginia.

That’s because Tyson Bagent’s rise from undrafted free agent to an NFL quarterback brings quite a bit of pride to the place he called home before starting his professional career.

“It means a lot to us,” said Ernie McCook, the head coach of Division II Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, where Bagent was a standout signal caller from 2018-2022, to WGN News Now this week. “We couldn’t be more excited to watch his successes and continue to root for even more success moving forward.”

An undrafted free agent out of Shepherd, Bagent showed Bears’ coaches what he could do during practice and then in the preseason. He took the second team snaps in the exhibition finale against the Bills on Saturday, beating out P.J. Walker and Nathan Peterman to remain on the roster through cuts.

While the attention has come onto him specifically over the last month, there is no forgetting on both sides where Bagent first came to major success in football 650 miles to the East.

During his postgame news conference on Saturday, he mentioned that he’d made contact with Cook’s son, Mike when he was asked earlier about how much he ran in college.

“I was just texting him saying, you know, it’s a shame coach didn’t run me more in college,” said Bagent.

Of course, Ernie McCook would find out about that soon after while returning home after a run to the grocery store.

“Tyson Facetimes my son and he goes ‘Hey, man, I just gave you a shout-out on the podium, go check out the press conference,” said McCook.

Of course, he did, watching everything he’s done with the Bears in Chicago after witnessing Bagent make history coaching him at Shepherd. In 53 games, he completed 1,400 passes for 17,034 yards and 159 touchdowns – with that number being the career-high for any NCAA quarterback in any division.

In 2021, his 5,000 yards passing and 53 touchdowns earned him the Harlon Hill Award for Division II MVP.

“We talk about a 1-in-10 – you get a guy like this once every ten years. For me, he’s a once-in-a-lifetime guy,” said McCook.

While admiring his abilities on the field, the coach was even more appreciative of Bagent’s continued support of Shepherd even while being with the Bears. He recalled a practice in which the now pro quarterback did a video call with the Rams to check in as they get ready for their season.

“He talked about how much he’s proud of Shepherd University, of our football program,” said McCook, who is now coaching Tyson’s brother Ezra, who is a freshman quarterback. “It’s nice to see a guy who’s playing at the highest level, accomplish what he’s accomplishing, but still have an appreciation of where he came from.

“I think that’s who Tyson is.”

He’s remained that way in Chicago, per his own words, as he gets ready to start his professional career with the Bears.

“I feel as if I’ve proved that I belong and that I belong in the league, but I think more than anything just all the hope and motivation I’m providing for my siblings and the people back home is really what I kind of sit back and think about when I think about just the whole
camp and preseason and how just everything is falling into place,” said Bagent.

Larry Hawley talked more with McCook about Bagent’s impact on Shepherd University on WGN News Now, which you can watch in the video above.