From Burpees and Barbells to Da Bears: Tyson Bagent Brings CrossFit to the Gridiron
In Week 6 of the 2023 NFL season, Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields took a sack in the third quarter. As he got up, holding his hand and grimacing, backup QB Tyson Bagent’s life changed in the blink of an eye.
- The 23-year-old undrafted free agent from Division II Shepard University took the field in relief of Fields. The Bears lost the game by six points.
With Fields sidelined in Week 7 due to the thumb injury, Bagent became the first D-II QB to make an NFL start in 13 years and the first Chicago QB to win his starting debut in almost 20 years. To emphasize how incredible it is that Bagent has even made it this far – it is nearly impossible to find this guy’s college game tape to break down. That is how small his college football program was.
But it didn’t matter how small the school was; Bagent set career records there.
- Most completions
- Most pass attempts
- Most passing yards
- Most TD passes
Growing up in his dad Travis’ CrossFit affiliate, CrossFit 304, in West Virginia, Bagent knew what hard work was from an early age, watching his father train and become a world champion arm-wrestler. Travis’ history of fitness was especially vital during 2020 and COVID when Bagent’s junior year season at Shepherd was canceled.
His dad shook it off and trained Tyson in his affiliate to ensure he stayed in starting QB form.
Travis built up the physical and mental strength in his son, and it did not go unnoticed.
When Bagent was a senior, Tyler Haines was Shepherd’s offensive coordinator and QB coach in 2022. He also became Shepherd’s pro liaison, communicating with NFL scouts before the 2023 draft.
He reflects on the difference in Bagent:
- “I talked to every single scout his senior year, and I tried to explain to every NFL team what makes Tyson Tyson. I’ll say this: He’s different. He’s different than anybody I’ve ever coached on a whole lot of levels. He’s the ultra-competitor, no matter what he does, whether it’s CrossFit or rock-paper-scissors or walking on his hands — I’ve seen him walk on his hands almost 100 yards. Everything’s a big deal to Tyson,” Haines said.
As much as the public and CrossFitters are rooting for Bagent, there is very little chance he will snag the starting job from Justin Fields.
But it doesn’t matter.
- He made it on the field. Coaches and coordinators now have a face to the name; they can see what he can do.
- Bagent has laid more groundwork for himself and a career in the NFL in five quarters of football than he could have with years on the bench.
Bagent will have some tough times in the NFL, as all rookies do, but it will be what he does after a bad game that starts to define him. Just like being battered by a horrible WOD you misjudged but coming back and improving on it the next time you tackle it.
The CrossFit state of mind will help Bagent get there, and the power of the moment on Sunday was not lost on Bagent. There were over 60 of his friends and family in attendance at Soldier Field.
- Bagent: “Where I come from, I’ve got a bunch of friends, a bunch of family that understood how big this was, just in life. Not a lot of people get to say they started an NFL game, let alone win an NFL game. Definitely have a lot of those conversations today.”
- “I think the staff understood it too, and the players, that’s why everyone rallied behind me as well as they did. I was able to take it in with a handful of different conversations I had during the week,” he said.
And he did have a fallback career if the NFL didn’t work out.
- “Yeah, I was basically just going to Crossfit my life away. Basically, just get as ripped and jacked as I possibly could and be a teacher at Martinsburg High School.”
Looks like that is off the table now, Tyson.
Bagent should start at least one more game this season, with Fields still dealing with his thumb, this week against the Los Angeles Chargers.