Gabe Carimi, the Chicago Bear’s first round draft pick this April, was born at Lake Forest Hospital. Although he moved to Wisconsin when he was a toddler, he admits it felt like coming home when he met with the Chicago Bears at their Lake Forest headquarters this spring. “One of my earliest memories is of the big green Mayflower truck that moved us from our Lake Forest house,” says Gabe.
The 6-foot, 7-inch, 314-pound football player out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, started 49 games over four years. Gabe will be counted on to shore up a Bears offensive line that allowed a league-high 56 sacks last season.
“We loved Gabe from the start, picking as late as we did, we just didn’t know if we would have the opportunity to get him,” explains Chicago Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith on having had the NFL Draft’s 29th overall pick. “I think he is going to bring toughness to our offensive line, just like everything about him. As far as what position he will play, we don’t have to make that decision right now, he gives us flexibility, he gives us options, whether it be tackle or guard or whatever. A player that played in the Big Ten, started as many games as he has, the wars he has gone through, I just think he will fit in with that group of lineman that we have,” Coach Smith adds.
The admiration between player and coach is mutual. “On the day of the draft, Coach Smith and I had a great conversation,” says Gabe. “He’s a really good guy and has great control of the team. I look forward to getting on the field and showing him what I can do.”
Having played at Madison and on the same team with Bears Offensive Line Coach Mike Tice’s son Nate, the Bears feel confident in their choice of Gabe. “We did a lot of work on him. Being in our backyard, we were able to see him play, send our coaches up there. Obviously, spent a lot of time on him personally, as we did with a number of players. So we feel like we know as much as you can know about this player,” says Bears General Manager Jerry Angelo.
“He’s been an outstanding player at Wisconsin for four years,” adds Coach Tice. “He’s gotten better every year. We got a very good football player with a great track record.”
Gabe took some heat earlier in the year for remarks he made about being the best offensive tackle in the Draft. “I’m a very physical player,” adds Gabe. “It’s what I love most about football—the physicalness of the game, the adrenaline that’s always pumping, the one-on-one match-ups, the competition that comes down to the wire. It’s what I thrive on.”
Having spent much of his life north of the cheddar curtain, the questions about Gabe’s ability to be loyal to the Chicago Bears have been relentless. “Before the draft, when I was talking with my coaches about where I’d like to play, I’d tell them that I thought I’d be a great fit for the Bears—it’s a place where I could make an impact. I can’t wait to step on to Soldier Field,” he says.
So when Gabe takes the field for the first time in a Chicago Bears uniform against the Green Bay Packers, there isn’t even a little part of him that will be torn about who to root for?
“Not a chance,” says Gabe with unwavering conviction. “I’m a Chicago Bear—through and through.”
—Ann Marie Scheidler