New Bears cornerbacks Duke Shelley and Stephen Denmark, the contingent on defense from Chicago's 2019 NFL Draft class, met the media for the first time prior to the kick off of rookie minicamp Friday.
Shelley, selected in the sixth round (No. 205 overall) in part because of his diminutive stature (5-foot-9, 173 pounds), explained his mentality as a smaller guy often tasked with covering much bigger opponents.
"I really don't fear no man," said Shelley, the Kansas State product who started 37 games over four years. "I approach every situation the same way. He put his pants on like I do. He got to make the plays, just like I do. So that's just the mentality I have to have being a smaller guy."
Coach Matt Nagy's first impression Friday of Shelley was that he has "a lot of quickness," and "he's a happy-go-lucky guy — you can't miss that smile he has."
Bears great Charles Tillman, one of several Bears alum to meet with the rookie class at Halas Hall Thursday, might compare a lot closer physically to Denmark but left quite an impression on Shelley, who was given the No. 33 made famous by "Peanut."
Tillman shared a story with Shelley from his rookie season, when he was matched up against Minnesota Vikings Hall of Famer Randy Moss.
"Everybody in the stands probably knew it was coming to him, you have this rookie vs. this Hall of Fame guy, and he made the play," Shelley said. "He was just going to show that it's no different than what you've been doing your whole life. Just because you're here, it's no different. Just attack every situation. Go into everything thinking you're going to make the play, you're going to be the best. And if you do that, you'll be fine. So he stood out to me the most."
Shelley said he didn't learn until after his visit with Tillman that he would receive the same number.
'I'm probably going to have to hit him up, let him know I'm going to represent him, represent him well," Shelley said.
Denmark, at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds and hailing from D-II Valdosta State, in many ways, is the polar opposite of Shelley. But both are learning new positions, with Shelley making the transition from the boundary to nickel corner, while Denmark begins only his second full year at corner, after playing wide receiver.
"Today, him being out here, you see his size," Nagy said. "Now he'll be under the tutelage of coach [Chuck] Pagano and coach [Deshea] Townsend. Just keep learning. We got time with him. He has traits. He's a big guy that can do a lot of good things."
Denmark explained why he embraced moving to defense last season.
"I kind of figured there's a lot of 6-3, 220 [pound] wide receivers, but there's not too many 6-3 220 [pound] cornerbacks at all, really," he said. "I just felt like that was the better ... to get to this spot, I think that was the best move for me at the time."
Denmark makes a great point, and he has a great point of reference — not only in terms of how rare King-sized corners like him are, but in perhaps the NFL's best current example, Richard Sherman, also a collegiate wide receiver convert.
"Just try to [imitate] and take some of his game and make it fit for me," Denmark explained of modeling himself after the four-time Pro Bowler.
Sherman is known for many things, from his sticky coverage and elite ball skills to rugged tackling and boisterous style on and off the field. The soft-spoken Denmark seems unlikely to ever resemble the brash Sherman, personality-wise, but what he described as his biggest personal highlight as a corner, as well as the moment when he realized his NFL dream could be a reality, have some shades of Sherman.
"I would say versus Fort Valley State," Denmark explained of the game last season when he felt like he belonged on 'D.' "I jammed somebody out of bounds. From there, I felt a little rage. I was like, OK, yeah."
From switching positions to the jump from D-II to the NFL, plenty of changes abound for Denmark. But his recent experiences of individual and team successs align closely with the Bears, the reigning NFC North champs and their No. 1 playmaking 'D.'
"Individually, I would say my first pick-six [was last year's high point]. Team-wise was the national championship game."
Denmark sounds like he'll fit in just fine with these Bears.