Nick Kwiatkoski has found himself in a great situation. The third-year linebacker is in the middle of one of the best defenses in the league in the Chicago Bears, who added All-Pro Khalil Mack in the offseason to an already talented unit. The team has gotten off to a hot start this season, leading the NFC North and putting themselves in position to make a playoff run.
Kwiatkoski spent the offseason working to improve his own game after starting 13 games over his first two years in the league. The Bears saw potential in Kwiatkoski when they took him out of West Virginia in 2016, trading up in the fourth round to select him. Kwiatkoski was first team All-Big 12 at West Virginia, and in the NFL he’s looking to rise to the same level.
“I’ve learned a lot of things my first two seasons so putting them all together going into the 2018 season was my goal,” Kwiatkoski says. “Preparation coming in – mental and physical obviously. Finding that perfect balance is important for me going into this season.”
Kwiatkoski and the Bears are one of the best teams in the NFL at the quarter mark, and the linebacker is ready to help the team stay in that position. Kwiatkoski spoke with Men’s Journal about working out in the offseason, the best advice he’s gotten, and the best advice he’s gotten about training.
Men’s Journal: As a young player, what was the biggest adjustment for you coming into the NFL from college?
Nick Kwiatkoski: Just the time management. In college you’re a student and an athlete but coming into the NFL it’s your full-time job. Just balancing that and focusing on football it was different. Keeping the ball to your right and your mind all on football.
What are some things you did to help you adjust to the NFL from college?
I took advice from older guys, guys that have been through it, guys that have done it for a couple years and just taking a step back and observing. Following the lead of older guys and keeping my mind all on football.
What is your workout routine like during the offseason? What’s a typical workout like for you in the gym?
Typical offseason workout means stretching as soon as I get there to keep the body healthy and then it varies. I focus on flexibility and strength and on the other days speed and conditioning. Anything that helps with explosiveness would be my go-to.
What are some of the lessons you learned over your first years in the league?
I learned to always stay ready and control what you can control. It’s a long season, things happen and injuries occur so just always be ready for your opportunity because when you get that you want to be ready for it. I’ve learned to control what I can control, always work hard and keep your body right. That’s my job now, so I have to stay on top of that no matter if I’m playing or it’s the offseason, I always have to keep the maintenance up on my body.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about training since coming into the NFL?
Probably knowing my own body. Knowing when something’s wrong, knowing when to correct it and then doing things to make sure whatever the problem is doesn’t happen again to prevent small injuries from turning into big injuries.
If you could give your younger self advice about what you’ve learned since being in the NFL, what would it be?
Be ready. Stay on top of things because you never know what’s going to happen. Control what you can control and be ready for opportunity. You may not be in a position that you like or position that you want to be in but your opportunity is going to come eventually whether that be a big or small so just be ready for it.