CANTON, Ohio – Three years ago, tight end Adam Shaheen played at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium twice as a member of Ashland University's football team.
In wins against Walsh and Malone, Shaheen racked up 15 catches for 197 yards and three touchdowns – performances which started to put Shaheen on the National Football League's radar.
On Thursday (Aug. 2) night, Shaheen returned to Canton to play in the first game of the 2018 NFL preseason, the Hall of Fame Game, for the Chicago Bears. Listed third on the Bears' depth chart behind free agent acquisition Trey Burton and Dion Sims, Shaheen saw action in 11 offensive plays and four special teams plays, and had an incomplete pass thrown his way, against the Baltimore Ravens.
"The last time I played here, behind the sideline was like a construction fence, and it was rubble," said Shaheen, whose Bears lost on Thursday, 17-16, of the recently-renovated stadium. "It was a little bit different."
Shaheen said that the axiom of the game slowing down from a player's first year to his second has been true for him.
"It's so much less stressful," he said. "Even though we have a new coach (Matt Nagy), new system, just having a year of (NFL) football under my belt, it has slowed down tremendously."
Shaheen, in his second season with the Bears, finished his first professional campaign in 2017 with 12 catches for 127 yards and three touchdowns, despite missing the final three games due to injury. He paced the Bears in touchdown catches a season ago. Shaheen played in 13 games and started seven, and caught his first NFL touchdown pass in a 23-17 home overtime win in Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Shaheen was drafted in the second round (No. 45 overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft by the Bears. He had a record-setting junior season at Ashland in 2016, one in which he caught a school-record and NCAA Division II single-season tight end-record 16 touchdown passes. He grabbed a school tight end-record 70 passes as a sophomore in 2015.
After starting just two seasons for the Eagles, Shaheen, a two-time American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) All-American and two-time College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-American, is No. 5 all-time in program history with 129 career catches, No. 10 in career receiving yards with 1,755, and was two receiving touchdowns away from tying the school's all-time record in that category.
Since the Bears played in the Hall of Fame game, they will have five preseason games in August.
"Any time you get the extra preseason game, it's just an extra chance to develop some young guys and get some good stuff on tape," Shaheen said. "The biggest thing in the league is just to stay healthy. If you're available, that's your best asset."
Shaheen wasn't the only former Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference player on the field on Thursday night. Baltimore has four ex-GLIACers – Ferris State rookie defensive tackle Zach Sieler, and Grand Valley State alums Brandon Carr (cornerback), Nick Keizer (tight end) and Matthew Judon (defensive end/outside linebacker).
"I talked to the tight end from Grand Valley, and Seiler," said Shaheen. "D-II, we've got to stick together. It was good to see them."
Shaheen and the Bears begin the 2018 regular season on Sept. 9 on NBC on Sunday Night Football at the Green Bay Packers.