To those of us who covered Forte from the very beginning, he exuded class and professionalism. Mature beyond his years, Forte brought stability to the running back position following the Bears' ill-fated decision to hand the starting job to former top-five pick Cedric Benson after Super Bowl XLI.
Upon Benson’s swift, and embarrassing, release in the spring of 2008, Forte took control of the position and never looked back.
Forte’s only “controversy” stemmed from his strained contract negotiations in the summer of 2012, which in reality was strictly a business decision that any running back would make in a heartbeat. Running backs are viewed as replaceable, and rarely do they see a second lucrative contract. Whenever a tailback has the chance to cash in, he has to take it, which Forte wisely did.
He isn’t the flashiest player. For years the Bears questioned Forte’s ability to score in short-yardage situations, signing an endless parade of experienced No. 2 rushers such as Chester Taylor, Marion Barber and Michael Bush.
But Forte, who turned 30 in December, outlasted them all. And he seemed to improve with age.
Forte made his first Pro Bowl in 2011. His second trip to the Pro Bowl happened in 2013.
Forte caught a single-season record 102 passes out of the backfield in Marc Trestman’s offense just two years ago. He is, hands down, the best all-purpose back in the NFL over the past eight years.
Even so, Bears general manager Ryan Pace rejected Forte's request for a contract extension before the 2015 season.
Forte probably knew at that exact moment his days in Chicago were numbered. But instead of being a distraction, Forte took the high road, and even mentored his future replacement, Jeremy Langford.
That is remarkable in the cutthroat business of professional football.
It told you all you needed to know about Forte.
Forte departs the Bears as one of the top three running backs in franchise history, joining Hall of Famers Walter Payton and Gale Sayers.
To be mentioned in the same breath as Payton and Sayers shows the legacy Forte leaves behind in Chicago.