One would think a 6th round pick wouldn’t be any cause of panic for the Chicago Bears. Yet somehow, Trestan Ebner found a way. The Baylor running back was somebody GM Ryan Poles and his scouts had an eye on for months. They loved his speed, quickness, and versatility. It was a dimension they felt the Bears running back room needed. As the draft began to wind down, they realized they couldn’t risk letting him hit undrafted free agency. Several other teams were prepared to pursue him hard if that happened.
So Poles decided to pick Ebner in the 6th round. There was one problem, though. They couldn’t reach him on the phone. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune and later confirmed by Ebner himself, the rookie’s cellphone wasn’t working during that crucial stretch of the draft. Every attempt to reach him went straight to voicemail. Poles knew the Bears wouldn’t be able to select the young man unless they spoke to him first. So he called on Ebner’s agent, Ron Slavin, for help.
The veteran player representative got creative.
“We can’t pick him if we can’t talk to him,” Poles told Slavin, explaining the Bears had been trying to reach Ebner and their calls also were going straight to voicemail with time becoming critical.
NFL teams have a long-standing practice of talking to players on the phone before submitting their names to the league office to ensure they’re not choosing a player who encountered recent misfortune.
With Poles still on the line, Slavin quickly called Ebner’s sister Tiana Boone and she answered. He asked her to put Ebner on.
“I’m sitting outside and my sister ran up to me and that’s how I knew her phone worked and mine didn’t,” Ebner said Friday morning before the first rookie minicamp practice.
Ebner took the phone and Slavin and Poles were on the line. The Bears went ahead and made it official with the 203rd pick.
It is crazy to think how different things might’ve been if Slavin didn’t have the phone number of Ebner’s sister handy. Poles may have been forced to consider other options with that 207th pick, and the running back could’ve gone undrafted. A heartbreaking stroke of bad luck that would’ve cost him a lot of money. Undrafted rookies make just under $2.6 million across three years. Ebner is in line for $3.8 million with an extra year of roster security by getting drafted. Having his sister there ensured him an additional $1.2 million.
This wild event serves to remind us how smart it is for draft prospects to have friends and family close by during the draft. Not to mention a smart agent. Sometimes technology or basic human error can lead to catastrophe. Having good people around you can mitigate the damage from being ten times worse.
Trestan Ebner still has a competition ahead of him.
While the Bears were happy to secure his services in the draft, they have no plans to make it easy for him. Rookie minicamps began this week, and he’s already in a battle for attention. Shortly after the draft ended last weekend, the Bears also signed Ohio State running back Master Teague. Not only was he productive when healthy during his stint there, but he also has the added bonus of being somebody Justin Fields knows.
So Trestan Ebner has no time to relax. If he’s not careful, Teague could swoop in and steal that roster spot. It is hardly uncommon for NFL teams to cut late round picks. Don’t forget the Bears released Kerrith Whyte and Stephen Denmark, both of their 7th rounder, as rookies in 2019. It is doubtful the team would have qualms about releasing Ebner if they feel Teague or veteran Darrynton Evans make stronger impressions.
Another reminder that getting drafted is not the end of the story.
The hard work is only beginning. Ebner has lots of potential. He can help the Bears in the passing game right away and is also an option for their return man duties. If he lives up to his reputation, he could make a perfect complement to David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert.