CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears are on a bye this week, but Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte stayed in town to visit with students at Tilden High School on the city's South Side. As a part of Duracell's #TrustYourPower campaign, Forte surprised the students during an assembly, visited classrooms, and had lunch with the 15-member Tilden football team. After school, he and fellow Bears Earl Bennett and Kellen Davis helped the team through practice.
Forte also took the time to sit down with Shutdown Corner and talk about Tilden, his teammates, and his favorite subject in school.
Shutdown Corner: What did the football team talk about? I can't imagine playing with just 15 guys on the team.
Matt Forte: Yeah, they call it iron man football, playing both ways like that. Them having just 15 kids on the team is an inspiration to me. They don't have a locker room. They change in a classroom. You gotta respect them for going to practice every day and trying to get a win.
SC: What made you want to come here today?
MF: I don't like to travel on the bye week, so I said I'm going to be in town anyway. When they told me the story about the football team, that they haven't won a game in four years, they don't have a lot of kids on the team. They don't have a lot of support. I figured I'd come out here and show them some love.
SC: You missed playing time because of an ankle injury. How are you feeling now?
MF: During the Jacksonville game, I was a good 85-90 percent. The Monday night game against Dallas, every time I got hit it would hurt. But now it's regular. I don't have any issues with it now.
SC: Did you feel better as you ran more?
MF: You get more confident. In the Dallas game, it was tough. You got hurt, you had to shake it off. But this one, it got back to regular.
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SC: The Bears are 4-1 going into the bye. How do you keep momentum going?
MF: Keep focusing on each game, one game at a time. We can't look too far ahead or look past one team. We can't wait until we get to the end of the season and hope we beat this one team. We take it one game at a time. Week in and week out, we focus on doing the small things right. It's all about fundamentals and techniques. If you forget the small things, that's what'll hurt you. Make stupid penalties, when we're in the red zone, getting points on the board. Making touchdowns instead of field goals. Our defense is playing good right now. If we can put a lot of points on the board, we'll win some games.
Forte and Kellen Davis huddle up. (Duracell)SC: The defense is playing well. Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman have more touchdowns than you.
MF: I told them, 'I'm jealous of y'all. You've got two touchdowns. I've only got one.' I got some work to do.
SC: Does it get competitive between the defense and offense? Do you tease each other about their scoring?
MF: All the time. I think we have maybe one more touchdown than they've scored. We love when they play great like that because it makes the job easier on us, but we got to put a lot more points on the board after the bye week.
SC: The Bears brought in Michael Bush while you were still in contract negotiations with the team, and you wrote a tweet that was considered to be complaining about the signing. Has that affected your relationship?
MF: Me and Mike played golf in the offseason. I had met him before that. Everything's all good. People were taking it the wrong, which I don't care. I was talking about the contract situation. They thought I was talking about him getting signed. I accept competition. I expect it. I think it makes everyone better. Me and Mike have a good relationship.
SC: Who was the better golfer?
MF: He golfs all the time. I don't golf as much as he does, but you'll have to ask him. I don't want to put him on blast because he golfs a lot, but I'm pretty good. (Laughs)
SC: What does having Bush on the team do for you?
MF: It brings a lot of camaraderie, especially in the running back room. Having two guys who have played a lot. It's not like he's new or anything like that. It brings a different dimension to the running back game. He changed the pace up a little bit.
Forte stopped by art class. (Duracell)SC: You're known as a versatile running back because you can work a receiver and a running back. What pushed you to do that?
MF: I worked on it in college. We threw the ball a lot my first three years. I had to do it because we threw the ball a lot, so it was another way to get the ball in my hands. When we got to the NFL, I found out it was more valuable if you're a running back who can actually do that. It helps us out tremendously to have a running back who can catch the ball and who can open up other receivers, too.
SC: The Bears brought in a big infusion of talent on offense this year. What have they brought to the team?
MF: There's nobody fighting with the coaches, saying 'I want the ball more.' Everyone can get the ball spread around evenly. We know that if we're spreading the ball around evenly, getting the ball in the hands of the playmakers, we know that we're going to move the ball up and down the field.
SC: Who were your favorite running backs to watch growing up?
MF: I have a lot of favorite running backs. Growing up, I watched the old school guys like Walter Payton and Gale Sayers. I loved Emmitt Smith. I wore No. 22 in Little League because of him. I was a Marshall Faulk fan. I watched Tiki Barber play when he was with the Giants. I was in New Orleans and watched Deuce McAllister. I liked Marshall Faulk's game a lot because, like I do, he would catch the ball a lot. He could run routes like a receiver. In the running game, he had great vision and great speed.
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Forte with the Tilden Blue Devils. (Duracell)SC: Did you take anything from the way they played their game?
MF: You see with a guy like Walter Payton, he was so powerful. He could run through tackles and break tackles. You see guys like Marshall Faulk, and they were shiftier. They could make people miss and get open and run for 80 yards. I try to take all that, so when you need to run over somebody and get a tough yard, you can do that. If you need to pass somebody, you can do that.
SC: Jay Cutler has been criticized for his actions on the sidelines of Bears games. Is he a good leader?
MF: Yeah, he is. He gets a lot of scrutiny. Brandon had a good point the other day. We were saying if Peyton Manning or Tom Brady had bumped somebody or were yelling at him, they'd say 'Oh look at him. He's a leader.' But as soon as Jay did it, he's a jerk. He was just trying to tell the guy, 'Let's go. Let's get going.' He just gets too much scrutiny. He's a good leader.
SC: To finish up, since you're visiting high school classrooms today, what was your favorite subject in school?
MF: I majored in finance so I have to say math. It came pretty easily to me. I remember bringing home report cards with a 105 in Algebra.
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