Rookie Trenton Gill kind of looks like the human version of a throwback to the old Gil Thorpe comic strips, and after veteran Ryan Winslow was released in favor of OT Shon Coleman last week, the seventh-round draft pick is the starting punter for your Chicago Bears.
Ahead of their first OTAs, the Bears signed offensive tackle Shon Coleman (23 games, 16 starts with Cleveland from 2016-17, missed entire 2019 season w/injury, opted out 2020, on IR in 2021) and waived punter Ryan Winslow. Only one punter on the roster now – rookie Trenton Gill.
— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) May 17, 2022
It’s hard to believe that GM Ryan Poles saw Gill at this year’s scouting combine, envisioned him punting in Soldier Field, and then traded down to acquire the pick that netted the punter, but that’s exactly what happened. Gill is a big-legged kicker who graded out as one of the top players at his position in the 2022 class. In fact, in a normal year, he might have been the only punter selected. This year’s class, however, was punter-rich. Like Gill, Matt Araiza, Jordan Stout, and Jake Camarda were also Day 3 selections.
I don’t know about those other players, but it looks like the Bears got the dude who will be the most fun of the quartet.
— Trenton Gill (@gill_trenton) March 11, 2021
Gill finished his collegiate career as the all-time leader in yards per punt in NC State history. Here’s what I wrote about him when I covered the draft.
“He’s got a booming leg, needs to improve his hang time, has ice in his veins when it comes to holding for placekicks, and he seems like a genuinely righteous young man. Gill played soccer and football in high school and walked on as a freshman punter at North Carolina State. In a normal draft, he probably would have been the first and only punter selected.”
Gill was noticeably excited to be selected by the Bears and displayed an “aw shucks” demeanor that is straight out of the Thorpe dailies. At NC State he was affectionately known as “Mr. Manners.”
“[Being drafted] was amazing,” Gill said during a video call with Chicago reporters shortly after he was selected. “I got a call from Illinois. I’m like, ‘Chicago is on the clock; it’s probably them.’ I answered it. It was head coach [Matt Eberflus]. He’s like, ‘Are you ready to become a Chicago Bear?’ I’m like, ‘For sure. I’m ready to go. Ready to work. Ready to see what happens.’ But it was definitely an amazing experience. I’m still kind of in shock that it happened.”
The fact that Winslow was set free in order to preserve a training camp roster spot for a tackle who hasn’t played in four years indicates that the former Packers punter was probably a placeholder in the event Poles couldn’t get his guy in the draft. It’s no wonder he pounced on Gill with his final pick, rather than risk losing him to another team. A lot of fans, including me, wondered why Poles didn’t just wait to lock him in as a UDFA. Gill may have been the only player the rookie GM actually targeted with one of his 11 picks.
The rookie will work on his hang time in camp, he’ll most likely hold for Cairo Santos on field goal attempts, and he may even kick-off for the Bears. As athletic as he is, you have to wonder if he’ll ever be called on to run or pass out of punt formation. At 6-foot-4, 220 lbs, perhaps offensive coordinator Luke Getsy will try to deploy him as a big-bodied wide receiver for Justin Fields.
For now, however, he’s Chicago’s starting punter. It’s been a good month to be Trenton Gill, obviously.