Bears' Thomas surprises biggest fan

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Bears' Thomas surprises biggest fan

We live in a day and age where all you hear about are stories surrounding professional athletes getting arrested, not getting paid adequately and stirring up controversy on social media platforms and it's stories like what Bears rookie linebacker J.T. Thomas did for a child suffering from epilepsy that go unnoticed.

Anthony Grandberry, a 14-year-old boy who suffers from epilepsy - a brain disorder in which a person has repeated seizures over a period of time - met Thomas last year at an autograph signing.

"I'll never forget how he made me feel, a player on IR who hadn't played a practice or down for the Chicago Bears, for him to want my autograph and to make me feel like a Pro Bowler that day, I've always wanted to return that feeling to Anthony. More than anything, be able to help him the best way I can," Thomas said.

After Grandberry underwent brain surgery to help stop the seizures, Thomas visited him in the hospital over the holidays. The two have stayed in touch and Thomas surprised Grandberry with Super Bowl tickets at a Chicago southside church on Saturday morning.

"I came to see my buddy Anthony today. Me and the rest of my volunteers, we drove all the way from Florida just to take my No. 1 fan to the Super Bowl this year," Thomas said.

Thomas knows firsthand how important it is to help children with special needs, having a younger brother who suffers from autism.

"I have a younger brother with autism. I know how important it is for special needs children to have the support that they need...to feel like a normal child and to be able to do the things that everybody else does."

Thomas and Anthony will make the drive from Chicago to Indianapolis to see the Super Bowl at Lucas Oil Stadium together.

What's the first thing that Anthony plans to do when he arrives in Indianapolis?

"Just watch the game."

Helping Anthony isn't the only charitable work Thomas has done in the offseason, him and six volunteers have been making visits to epilepsy centers on their drive from Florida to Chicago for the J.T. Thomas Foundation.

Bears NFL Draft Preview: Franchise-QB search expected to continue sooner rather than later

Bears NFL Draft Preview: Franchise-QB search expected to continue sooner rather than later

CSNChicago.com Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin goes position-by-position as the Bears approach the 2017 Draft, taking a look at what the Bears have, what they might need and what draft day could have in store. Sixth in a series.

Bears pre-draft situation

Jay Cutler lasted through two years under the John Fox coaching staff while his 2014 contract still contained some guaranteed money. The new regime under GM Ryan Pace was given the option by Chairman George McCaskey of cutting ties earlier regardless of financial commitment but Adam Gase and Dowell Loggains as coordinators made a go of it before Cutler's injuries (shoulder and thumb last season) and mediocre play regardless of supporting cast made the organization's decision for it.

Resolving a now-decades-old problem position has been goal No. 1 of Pace, with all indications that the process will be ongoing, vs. the Cutler's-fine approach of the past eight years. Step one was signing Tampa Bay Buccaneers backup Mike Glennon to a three-year deal but with $16 million of the $18.5 million guaranteed coming in 2017. The situation establishes Glennon as the starter, with a chance to put a hold on the job beyond this season with a breakout year.

"It's a leap of faith to some degree," Fox acknowledged during the NFL owners meetings. "But I think you do that in a lot of different positions and evaluations of personnel and people. The big thing with him is that he has been in NFL football games. He has been in a lot of systems and around different players and personalities and, I think, handled it well."

The decision was made to move on from Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley as backups, signing Mark Sanchez, 30, to a one-year pact worth $1 million guaranteed plus a per-game bonus that allows the deal to top out at $2 million. Connor Shaw showed promise before going down for the year with a broken leg suffered in preseason.

Pre-draft depth chart
 
Starter: Mike Glennon
Reserves: Mark Sanchez, Connor Shaw

Bears draft priority: High

The Glennon and Sanchez signings were modest financial and time commitments by NFL standards. Their depth chart has no "elite" in place and does not need another mid-range quarterback; they had that for eight years in Cutler and know what limitations a limited quarterback brings to a franchise.

Using Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints experience as the template, Pace has been clear that he is seeking a quarterback with the intangibles to do more than post statistics, going further to lift the collective team mojo, something too often painfully lacking during the Cutler tenure.

[VIVID SEATS: Get your Bears tickets right here!]

All of which makes the quarterback draft options a level more interesting than the basic talent/traits assessments and evaluations that have circulated. The Bears have done extensive research on the quarterback prospects, and few envision scenarios where the Bears do not strike for one within the first several rounds.

The overarching No. 1 question: Will the Bears disregard draft slot (No. 3) and land a quarterback perhaps not graded that highly but with the intangibles the organization craves?

Question No. 2: Could quarterbacks go a surprising 1-2 with the Cleveland Browns tapping Mitchell Trubisky and San Francisco 49ers snatching Deshaun Watson?

As far as this year's class, "I'm not banging the table for any of them," said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, who tapped Clemson's Deshaun Watson as the No. 1 prospect in the 2017 draft class.

Keep an eye on:

DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame — The Bears sent a task force to South Bend for Kizer's Pro Day, in addition to a Combine interview and private meeting. Athletic but INT rate (2.7 percent), accuracy (60.7 completion percentage) and W-L record (14-11) nothing special.
 
Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech — Has been likened to both Cutler and Brett Favre for big-play predispositions, mobility and arm abilities. May have widest hit-miss potential, with major upside but also weaknesses in decision-making that concern some. "I just think his fundamentals break down too many times," Mayock said.
 
Nathan Peterman, Pittsburgh — Bears coaches worked with him at Senior Bowl. Not as highly touted as others in the class but among most pro-ready and rates as possible nugget in mid-rounds — if left on the board that long.
 
Mitchell Trubisky, North Carolina — Bears were scouting him intently early last college season and invested a Combine interview and private workout in additional time with what some rate as the best-available at his position in a class short on "elite" talents. But opinions vary widely, with Trubisky being mentioned for Cleveland at No. 1 or for No. 12, for example.
 
Deshaun Watson, Clemson — Unquestioned intangibles leader with curious "negatives:" accuracy (67.4 career completion percentage) and turnovers (2.7 INT percentage). Two full years as starter, two appearances in national championship game.

2017 NFL Draft Profile: Ohio State OL Pat Elflein

2017 NFL Draft Profile: Ohio State OL Pat Elflein

As part of our coverage leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft we will provide profiles of more than 100 prospects, including a scouting report and video interviews with each player.

Pat Elflein, OL, Ohio State

6'3" | 303 lbs.

Projection:

Second-to-third round

Scouting Report:

"Elflein is a smart, tireless worker with a winning background and experience at all three interior offensive line spots. While his feet are just average, his core strength and wrestling background could make him a favorite of teams looking for more strength at the center position. Elflein will have occasional issues in pass protection, but his strength as a run blocker and ability to play with excellent hands and plus body control should make him one of the first interior linemen to come off the draft board." — Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Click here for more NFL Draft Profiles