Michael Joseph in Familiar Role of Bears Camp Underdog

Bears' Division III practice squad cornerback faces long odds for making roster in his third season
Publish date:

Bears cornerback Michael Joseph gets noticed by few on the team's training camp roster.

It's nothing new. He's been sort of in the shadows in football much of his life.

Joseph became the first University of Dubuque player on an NFL roster since 1987 when he actually made it onto the Bears' 53-man roster in December last year, after almost two full seasons toiling in obscurity on their practice squad. He didn't get into any regular-season games, but he'll come to camp for a third straight year hoping he's shown enough development to make the regular roster.

The longest of shots from the time he put on a football uniform in high school, through college, there should be no way Joseph can be thought of as a potential Bear. Except, he constantly defies conventional thinking.

Joseph barely weighed more than 90 pounds as a high school freshman at suburban Oswego and grew up a Bears fan. In high school his playing time was sporadic and obviously he wasn't going to a big-time college, settling instead for Division III Dubuque.

At Dubuque, Joseph earned one small college award after another and capped it off with eight interceptions as a senior. Then he won the award for top defensive player in his conference and D-III All-American. Finally he was named the 2017 Cliff Harris Award winner, an honor given to the best defensive player from Division II, III or NAIA.

As a result, he became the only Division III player invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and also received an invite to the Senior Bowl.

Joseph ran a 4.52-second 40-yard dash at Iowa State's pro day while turning in a strong 6.89-second time in the three-cone drill at the combine.

The Bears signed him as an undrafted free agent and he made 10 tackles in each of the last two preseasons.

It's not common for players to come back to practice squads two straight years without moving up, so he bucked the odds be being invited back the second time and then got onto the active roster.

This year the competition even at the bottom of the cornerback slate looks fierce with the drafting of cornerbacks Jaylon Johnson, Kindle Vildor and signing of cornerbacks Artie Burns and Tre Roberson. Duke Shelley and Kevin Toliver II are among the other backups at the position held over from last year.

So no one would expect Joseph to earn a spot on the roster, but he's already proven he can operate efficiently without being noticed and no one should be surprised if he sneaks up everyone again.

Michael Joseph at a Glance

Dubuque CB

 Height: 6-foot

Weight: 194

Key Number: Joseph tied for the team lead in preseason with three passes defended in 2019.

Chances of Making Roster: 1 on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the most.

2020 Projection: Cut victim.