After making strides, Bears tight end Cole Kmet striving for more growth

"For him, there's truly no ceiling," veteran tight end Jimmy Graham says.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (670 The Score) -- As a kid growing up in nearby Lake Barrington, Bears tight end Cole Kmet would often wear a Jimmy Graham jersey and spike footballs into the ground.

As he did that, Kmet never could've imagined he would join the Bears last season and also suit up alongside Graham, who quickly took a liking to the rookie. For his part, Kmet followed the lead of the 11-year NFL veteran Graham and set a foundation for his career.

"He’s just a pro," Graham said. "The way he handles himself and the way he works.

"He never rests on his laurels."

Kmet, 22, is brimming with potential entering his second NFL season. He hauled in 28 receptions and two touchdowns in 2020, but statistics don't tell the entire story of his rookie campaign.

Kmet time's to learn with the Bears was limited as the offseason program was conducted virtually amid the pandemic and the training camp schedule was truncated. Initially, he didn't have a big role in coach Matt Nagy's struggling offense. In each of Kmet's first nine games, he played fewer than 50% of the snaps on offense.

But Kmet firmly established himself in the Bears' plans late in the season. He worked more than 70% of the snaps on offense in each of the final seven games and recorded a career-best seven receptions in the regular-season finale against the Packers.

"I'm looking to build upon what I did at the end of last season and just continue to grow from there," Kmet said.

"I want to continue to grow."

The Bears sense Kmet's comfort as he enters his second season. Coach Matt Nagy sees a young player who recognizes his track forward as an NFL tight end.

"I’m watching Cole and we all are watching Cole grow up right in front of our eyes," Nagy said. "His confidence is getting higher and higher by the day. (He's) watching a lot of tape of tight ends and ways to beat a defense.

"It’s who we wanted and who we saw when we drafted him last year as a rookie, and how lucky we all are for that tight end room."

Entering the 2020 season, it wasn't clear how the Bears would utilize their tight ends. There isn't much question now.

After leading the Bears with eight touchdowns, the 34-year-old Graham has returned for his second season in Chicago and will serve as the U tight end. Kmet will work as the primary Y tight end and look to build on his rookie season.

"He’s just a special kid," Graham said. "For him, there’s truly no ceiling. He can be as good as he wants to be. I’m excited to be a part of that, to help him get there and to win some games with him. He has a bright future and it’s been special to be able to help him do that."

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.

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