There’s been a lot of change surrounding the Chicago Bears recently, but one thing that has stayed the same has been the production of Matt Forte. The 29-year-old running back has averaged just over 1,100 yards per year over the past seven seasons, and in that time, he’s also added 3,727 receiving yards.
Entering his eighth NFL season, Forte and the Bears are looking to jumpstart their offense under new coach John Fox. While first-round pick Kevin White is sidelined with a stress fracture in his shin, Chicago does still have plenty to work with, although a tough schedule (especially early) might make things rough on Fox and his new team.
Forte is one of Tide’s “Color Captains” for this season, and he and the other 31 players are trying to get fans to show off their teams’ colors. As part of the promotion for the campaign, Forte took a few minutes to talk with Uproxx Sports about Tulane football, the media’s recent coverage of Katrina 10 years after the hurricane, Jay Cutler, and more.
Martin Rickman: Obviously, those Bears colors are important to you, but I know those Tulane colors are important, too. With all the stuff that was written about Hurricane Katrina 10 years later over the last couple weeks, did you read much of that? And how do you feel about how the subject was approached by the media members who were writing about it?
Matt Forte: I read a bunch of things, and I was interviewed for a couple stories, as well. Some people felt different ways about it. Like why should we be celebrating Hurricane Katrina because it was such a devastating natural disaster? But I don’t think we are celebrating the natural disaster part of it, we’re really celebrating how much New Orleans has come back since then. We’re celebrating that part, and the good things about it. And letting people know that we made it out of it. I was there in Tulane at that time, and we had to evacuate. We were staying in the dorms at Louisiana Tech, and we played all away games. But in the end we made it out, and made the big comeback. Even now, Tulane finally has its own stadium.
You’ve been away for awhile now, and Chicago is a new home, but what does New Orleans – and Louisiana – mean to you today?
It means a lot to me. I’m from Slidell, which is across the lake, but New Orleans has made a great comeback, having Mardi Gras and all these other things that create the culture down there. It has been able to come back alive. People always asked me why I didn’t transfer from Tulane after Hurricane Katrina happened, but I would tell people I lived there, and my parents still lived there, so I didn’t want to transfer just because of a hurricane. Instead, I came back, did Habitat for Humanity, and stuff like that down around the area. I didn’t want to run away from it. I wanted to make it stronger.
What can you say about the transformation of that program over the past few years? They’ve got the stadium now, and there was the bowl game a couple years ago. It seems like there’s some real positive things happening with the Green Wave. How closely are you able to watch that?
I’ve been able to watch it pretty closely. I was excited that they were able to get a stadium on campus and get that sort of support. Playing in the Superdome, they were never able to fill it up. Not being on campus, it was hard for people to go and try to play in that big dome. I think that having it on campus gives us a little bit of an advantage over other teams that we didn’t have before. Now teams have to come play in the heat outside, and we don’t have to travel anywhere. It really helps Tulane football. Curtis Johnson has been doing a great job recruiting, and they went to the bowl game two years ago, and they’ve been able to revamp the program. Hopefully they can continue to do that.
History is obviously so important to that Bears team in general, and there are such a long line of really good running backs who have played in Chicago over the years. Do you think about that much and how you match up to those guys? What place do you have in Bears history?
As soon as I was drafted, I was thinking about the running backs and the rich history of running backs that the Bears have had. I just wanted to live up to it, and kind of fill their shoes. I haven’t really thought about the legacy of myself, but I just want to continue to build on the legacy of this team. I really want to focus on that.
So much of the time, the media ends up saying something about a guy, and he gets a reputation based on what people are saying about him. It’s so easy for people to write those sorts of things, and they don’t even know the guy. With Jay Cutler, it seems a bit unfair – unless you know him personally. You do know him personally. What is he like? Is any of that warranted, or is this just a situation where people have the story wrong when it comes to him?
A lot of that stuff that has been written in the papers and in the media is a perception of what they think he is. Perception becomes reality. A lot of what has been reported, his actions, his facial expressions, on the sideline, whatever they say about him, he’s the opposite. He’s a good dude. And that’s why he’s continued to be here for so long. This year he’s going to play well because we put the right players in place.
There’s been a lot of change in Chicago the past couple years. How have you dealt with that, and how do players in general deal with that constant turnover? You just don’t know from day to day what’s going to be different. Do you look to things outside football to keep you grounded?
I’ve always been raised in the church and I’ve been grounded in a Christian foundation. But you learn that’s the nature of the NFL, and there’s always going to be change. Going into my eighth season, I know there’s going to be change all the time. You just have to deal with it and keep moving.
We keep hearing about how the running back position has been devalued over the past few seasons, which wouldn’t even be a problem for you because you’ve been so involved in the passing game. Is that something you’ve thought about? Is that even true? Do running backs need to do more than they used to?
It’s kind of like what I was just talking about with Jay, with how perception of stuff becomes reality. The media continues to talk about how the running back has been devalued, and it’s a passing league, and running backs aren’t as involved anymore. But if you look at the statistics, every team that gets in the playoffs can run the ball. They’ve had a really good running game. The Patriots were running the ball. The Seahawks have a great running game with Russell Wilson and Marshawn. It’s a cliché thing to say that running backs are dead, but you have to have a running game or you can’t pass the ball.
What do you think about shows like Ballers? Do they get anything right when it comes to portraying the NFL?
I saw one episode of Ballers, and I haven’t watched the rest of them. I didn’t put too much stock in it because they’re trying to make it as entertaining as possible, and it’s over the top I guess because they have to get viewers. I understand why they do that, but at the same time, it’s kind of funny to me.
Have you caught the acting bug at all?
I’ve been in plenty of shows. I’ve done The League before. Promotional stuff, commercials, fantasy football stuff, and all that. I’m not a thespian myself, so I don’t have the bug, but I’ve been acting a lot.
I saw some of your comments earlier on the FTW podcast, and you said 60 percent of fans in the NFL pay more attention to fantasy than they do about their teams. Why do you think that is? Is this thing going away anytime soon?
It won’t be going away anytime soon, and the answer to that is money. Everybody wants to play fantasy football to win money. Fantasy football brings in a lot of money. Obviously, they want to continue to get bigger and bigger.
There are these daily leagues now, too, and you’re seeing big companies like ESPN get involved too and invest in them – and it’s all off the perceived value of a player who’s just trying to do his job like anyone else. Does that bother you guys at all?
No, I don’t pay all that much attention to it at all. Because I’m not playing for fantasy points. I’m playing to try and help my team. My goal is to be in the Super Bowl and win a Super Bowl trophy. I’m not really worried about fantasy football.
What changes have been made leading into this season that have been noticeable for you guys that you think the Bears can build off of?
First off, having a new head coach and an entire new staff aside from Mike Groh, our receivers coach, moving from a 4-3 to a 3-4, actually with an offensive player is more complicated to deal with. Those changes have really helped, and the changes John Fox has been able to make, as well as evaluating different players.
What’s the best piece of advice anyone has given you, either as you were growing up, or since you started playing football?
My father, a fellow Tulane alumni and football player, always told me anything worth getting, you have to earn. It kind of instilled in me being a hard worker. Just because you have talent and you play sports doesn’t mean you have to don’t have to work hard. As an adult, it came from my father in law, a Bible quote that says “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a wealthy man to get into heaven.” I kind of take that to heart, and I say that in front of my team because it’s pretty critical when you think about it.