Chicago native Joel Iyiegbuniwe was selected by his hometown team in the fourth round as a linebacker out of Western Kentucky. Like his fellow rookie linebacker, Kylie Fitts, Iyiegbuniwe hasn’t seen much action on defense this season and has primarily played on special teams.
In 16 regular season games, Iyiegbuniwe has recorded 9 total tackles and saw some action in both Week 16 and Week 17 for the Bears on defense. Going into the playoffs, Iyiegbuniwe could be a key player on special teams as the Bears look to move on by beating Philadelphia on Sunday.
We caught up with Iyiegbuniwe to discuss the matchup with the Eagles and how his rookie season has been so far.
“I’ve always had confidence in my ability to play. Coming into the NFL I wanted to be sure that I didn’t short sell myself. A year ago at about this time I was looking into 2018 and trying to see what I could bring myself and how I could contribute somewhere. I’ve always set high goals for myself and have tried to figure out ways to meet those goals.”
“What’s my best skill? Well, I do pretty good curls. No, just kidding. I do work out a lot. I have a strong work ethic and desire to succeed. I’ve never believed that things are just handed out. You have to earn what you get so I’ve put in 100% every day. What you see with me is what you get. I try to stay true to myself and accomplish a lot.”
“The way I cope with this extended season as compared to college is to stick as close as possible to my usual routine. Maybe I’m superstitious that way but I try to keep everything pretty much the same. Staying with what works well for me.”
“This has been a spectacular year and way beyond my earlier expectations. Its a pleasure to have the opportunity to be taken by an NFL team, and particularly by this NFL team. There are no egos here in the blocker room. It’s one for all and that’s a system that works for me.”
“In my short time in the pros, I’ve heard about many teams that are not as close, where rookies have a very difficult time adjusting and making their mark. That definitely isn’t the case at Halas Hall. Offense, defense, special teams all support each other. What I’ve found is that if the veterans can see that you care they will help you out in any way they can.”
“What is important to me heading into my first ever playoff game is to prepare like I did all season. Changing nothing if what you are doing is effective makes sense. It would definitely throw me off if I started going out there doing all this extra stuff at this point. If you are a pro player and you know what works you don’t change that on short notice.”
“My preparation is always asking questions in meetings and using the skills of those around me in practice to help me improve. I watch a lot of film and take a lot of notes. More of football than you would think has a mental aspect. You have to understand what you are doing before you can execute effectively. The bottom line is don’t get complacent and try to find areas of your game that you need to work on. That’s pretty basic.”
“What do I see from the Eagles? Well, I won’t tell you the game plan but I will say we’ve all been studying a lot of film and having intense practice sessions. It will be an exciting and challenging matchup for sure. I think we’re ready. There would be no excuse at all for coming into a game like this unprepared.”