Ex-Wildcat Markshausen catches coach’s eye

Matt Trowbridge

Dependable. That’s not exactly the first thing people look for in a sports car. Or a date.

But it’s about the best thing you can hear about yourself if you are a 5-foot-11, 180-pound receiver with moderate speed who is at the Chicago Bears’ rookie minicamp on a workout invitation.

Zeke Markshausen, an unrecruited receiver from North Boone who walked on at Northwestern and became a second-team All-Big Ten receiver, made the best catch of the opening two days of the Bears rookie minicamp Saturday, leaping to make a fingertip grab of a ball thrown high and behind him in a crowd.

“In this league, you have to be perfect on everything,” Markshausen said. “Especially me. I’m not a huge guy. I’m not super speedy. I have to be perfect in everything.”

Two-thirds of the way through the three-day minicamp, Markshausen has done just that.

“He’s got some skills,” receivers coach Darryl Drake said. “He listens. He works hard. I like what I’ve seen out of him in these two practices.

“He’s definitely caught my eye,” Drake said, adding Markshausen probably caught offensive coordinator Mike Martz’s eye too. “He’s where he’s supposed to be and catches the football.

“He sure made a good catch. We throw a lot at these guys and put pressure on them. To transfer what you tell them in the classroom and still come out here and be in the right spot and make catches, that says a lot about a guy.”

It says Markshausen is dependable.

And that’s saying a lot.

“The best ability is dependability,” Drake said. “No matter who it is. If you’ve got a guy you can trust, you’ve always got a chance. So far, in two days, he’s done a really good job.”

“Dependability,” Markshausen said, “goes beyond just the wide receiver stuff. It’s also about doing the right things outside of football. That just flows with who I am and what I believe in. That’s a big part of who I am, so it’s not hard to be what he’s asking for.”

Even if Markshausen has attracted notice, it will be extremely hard for him to make the Bears roster — or even to make it to training camp. The Bears had 55 players at their rookie mini camp, including nine receivers. Thirty of those 55 were classified as players invited to work out. A Bears official said none of the players invited for a workout last year were eventually signed.

“If I think about that,” Markshausen said, “I’m going to get caught up in things I can’t handle. I’m only going to be able to control what I did out there. When I get my chances, I’m going to run the right routes.

“This is a dream come true. Parts of it haven’t even sunk in yet. I look around and see Chicago Bears on the helmet and I’m like, ‘Am I really doing this right now?’ ”

This three-day tryout may be Markshausen’s dream, but it’s not an impossible dream. Unlikely, yes, but not impossible.

“If you’ve got ability, you get noticed, no matter how many receivers are out there,” Drake said. “It’s a difficult situation to come out and get noticed in this kind of environment, but guys with ability, they find a way. And so far he’s done that.”

It remains a long shot. But a fun long shot. Markshausen is trying to cash in by being perfect.

Which means even his eye-opening catch Saturday from sixth-round draft pick Dan LeFevour didn’t meet Markshausen’s exacting standards.

“He put it where I should have been,” Markshausen said of the pass. “I was a little late on that one. I’m sure I will get criticized for that in meetings, but that’s part of the deal.

“What you saw today is I’ve got to make the catch no matter where the ball is. The few shots that I have, I have to make them count.”

Assistant sports editor Matt Trowbridge can be reached at 815-987-1383 or mtrowbridge@rrstar.com.