The flurry of phone activity that began the morning of the first day of the NFL draft ceased, at least momentarily. The televisions inside the draft room at Halas Hall were already turned down. Other conversations died down.
The Bears were on hold. All 20 eyes in the room fixated on the black landline phone on the desk of Joey Laine, Chicago’s director of football administration.
“That was a pretty tense moment,” Ryan Pace said.
The Bears’ general manager moved in close to Laine. So did head coach Matt Nagy, who swiveled his chair in between Pace and Laine, then didn’t move. “The draft room is silent,” Pace said.
Moments earlier, he asked Laine to call Giants assistant general manager Kevin Abrams to accept the deal proposed by New York GM Dave Gettleman.
Pace and Gettleman had worked out trade parameters for the 11th pick in one of their multiple phone calls earlier that day. Now the Giants were on the clock. Thirty seconds became one minute, and that became two. In the Bears’ draft room, it felt as if two hours had passed.
Abrams returned. This was it.
“Joey looks at me and gives me the thumbs-up,” Pace said. “And he says, ‘We got a deal.'”
There was still more to do. Laine called the trade into the NFL. The Giants did the same. The NFL provided confirmation, and the Bears were on the clock.
Pace turned to Nagy: “We’re getting Justin Fields.”
Nagy screamed out of happiness and excitement. Pace remembered hearing a swear word or two. Chicago’s brain trust shared fist bumps and bro hugs. It was a party.
“The moment just feels surreal,” Pace said. “It’s out of body.”
Champ Kelly, the Bears’ assistant director of player personnel, turned the draft “card” into the league from his computer. Bobby Macedo, Chicago’s scouting coordinator, got the new face of the franchise on the phone and handed it to Nagy.