Heading in the Chicago Bears' week four matchup with the Carolina Panthers, football pundits nationally were challenging Bears' offensive coordinator to change his style, call more run plays and take some of the heat off of his seemingly punch drunk quarterback Jay Cutler. Whether or not Mike Martz listened to the critics, the Bears' new run-heavy approach paid off Sunday, as fourth-year back Matt Forte carried 25 times for a whopping 205 yards and a touchdown in Chicago's 34-29 win. Forte's big day comes as no surprise to those who follow the Bears or Forte, as the 6-2, 218 pounder has totaled 4,731 yards from scrimmage since his rookie season, ranking fifth in the NFL over that time period. Today we take a look back at Forte when he was in high school with an ESPNHS Alumnus of the Day feature.
Matt Forte had an outstanding two-year career at Slidell High School (La.) before moving on to Tulane University, where his father also played. He emerged as a recruitable prospect as a junior in 2002, gaining 1,057 rushing yards with eight touchdowns, while also showing signs that he could be an elite pass-catcher out of the backfield, snagging 30 passes for 365 yards and three scores to earn all-district honors.
Forte traveled west in the spring of 2003 to attend the Texas A&M Nike Camp, where he put up solid testing numbers of 4.60 in the 40, a 4.27 shuttle time and 18 reps of 185 pounds on the bench press. Other top prospects at the same event included current NFLers Brian Orakpo, Mike Wallace, Danny Amendola, Aqib Talib and Caleb Hanie.
Despite his solid junior year, a good Nike Camp outing and an even bigger senior year in the fall of '03 in which he gained 1,375 rushing yards and scored 25 total touchdowns to earn St. Tammany Parish Player of the Year, District 5-5A Offensive MVP, all-metro and second team all-state, Forte was lightly recruited out of Slidell. Scout.com and Rivals.com both ranked him as a two-star recruit, with Rivals listing him as a fullback and Scout writing, "A big, bruising running back that can play linebacker or fullback on the next level as well."
Forte was offered by Tulane during the fall of his senior year, and with only one other scholarship offer from FCS school McNeese State, he committed to the Green Wave in December after his senior season. Once at Tulane, Forte hit the ground running, playing as a true freshman and going onto a prolific college career, which included a 2,000 yard season as a senior in 2007.
For comparison's sake, the only running back that in-state power LSU signed in the Class of 2004 was Evangel Christian (Shreveport, La.) standout Jacob Hester, who ran for 1,780 yards for the Tigers. Hester is now a starting fullback in the NFL with the Chargers. The two top-rated running backs out of Louisiana in the Class of 2004 were Plaquemine's Ja'Kouri Williams (Tennessee) and East St. John's Derron Thomas (Miami). Williams was moved to defensive back at Tennessee and Thomas rushed for 620 yards as a 'Cane.