By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
Corey Wootton grew up in a sports-oriented family in Rutherford, NJ, where he recognized his love for basketball and baseball early, but football took his heart.
Like many other boys every year, Wootton got the urge to become a professional football player while becoming a standout for the historically successful Don Bosco Prep program in Ramsey, NJ. Eventually, Wootton established himself among the rare few who actually got to earn a living in the NFL.
But “earn” is a key word in the NFL, cause hardly anything is given to you and for Wootton that was a particularly pointed aspect of his six-year career.
Highlights were made and Wootton brushed against legends and stars while also suffering the frustrations of time on injured reserve and having to play for three different teams in his final three years in the League.
Through all that it was still a dream well lived for Wootton, and it set him up for a second act where he’s making another, longer highlight reel, occupying many TV segments as an emerging analyst and talker throughout the airwaves in Chicago.
Wootton at one point didn’t know much about Chicago or the Midwest at all. An East Coast kid, he played all four years at Don Bosco and made many friends, among them WARR alumni Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson, becoming a star during his junior year and setting himself up for a heavy recruitment process.
A solid Division 1 recruit, in Wootton’s senior year he narrowed down his schools of interest to the Big Ten’s Northwestern or the ACC’s Boston College. Evanston won out in offering a chance for Wootton to see new things and challenge himself on and off the field.
“I wanted to branch out and see what the Midwest was about,” Wootton told WARR in a recent sit-down. “I took a visit and I loved the people that were there. They were down to Earth. I’ve always wanted to play Big Ten football and they had great academics. That lined up with what I wanted to do. That’s why I chose Northwestern.”
During his tenure at NU, Wootton experienced some ups and downs. In a new city he experienced success and notoriety, from being selected first team All-Big Ten Conference in 2008 to pro scouts and executives projecting Wootton as a first-round pick, but later on knee injuries (torn ACL, MCL and meniscus) would set him back another season, forcing him to play a fifth year and eventually limiting his ability to max out his abilities on the next level.
Not to mention Wootton was also was experiencing life as a college athlete, hectic schedules that included morning workouts and practices as early as 6 A.M., while maintaining excellence in the classroom with traveling to play games.
However, being a college athlete never felt like a grind, according to Wootton, and doing it every day with his best friends — your brothers — made the journey all worth it, it only encouraged him further to pursue his dream of playing professional football.
That dream became real in the 2010 NFL draft when Wootton was selected by the Bears in the fourth round (109th overall), keeping him in Chicago and allowing him to keep a base of support that he still relies on professionally.
Upon entering the NFL, Wootton realized that the sport was not just a physical grind, but a mental one as well. A lot of pressure and adversity was met striving to perform at a high level while recovering from injuries and staving off other ones.
After spending the 2015 season on the IR list, Wootton started to lose his passion to continue playing the game — by the summer of 2016 that decision was made official, but it was already in the making by the time of the birth of his daughter during his last year in the NFL.
“[The birth of my daughter] changed my life,” Wootton said. “After I had her it put things in perspective for me and that’s ultimately why I decided to retire. Wanted to spend more time with my family.”
Once Wootton retired, he began working at his “plan B” career as a sports broadcaster. In the next year he began contributing to the Big Ten Network as a college football analyst and to Fox 32 News as a Bears analyst for their post-game shows.
In 2018 football audiences got to see more from Wootton, with him becoming a regular guest on morning shows like WCIU’s “The Jam” and with an expanding role at Fox including a weekly preview show called “Bears Unleashed” that he helped premiere this past fall.
Fox 32’s lead sportscaster Lou Canellis has worked with Wootton on the Bears post-game shows and he expresses his colleague’s growth as a broadcaster based on his effect to lift up the entire Fox crew.
“(Corey) brings an incredible energy, like this kid-like attitude that really shows his excitement on what he is talking about and it makes a difference on air.” Canellis said.
“He brings it not just on defense, but offense as well, showing his ability to expound on his analysis from his experience in the league. He is really great to work with.”
Wootton often states that a career in broadcasting is much better than football simply because in his current career he can show that there is more to life than being an athlete. In using his signature energy as well as his knowledge for the game, Wootton has established himself as a standout on the small screen.
Along with his congenial on-air personality, Wootton has shown himself to be pretty on-point with his analysis, which included previously predicting Bears head coach Matt Nagy as this year’s NFL Coach of the Year to WARR .
Though things weren’t easy for Wootton in the NFL hedoes not regret any of the experiences he went through during that time, he certainly doesn’t regret his most famous run-in with legendary quarterback Brett Favre.
“I didn’t even realize I got a sack on that play,” Wootton told WARR’s Ken Davis and Demonze Spruiel in a recent episode of “The D & Davis Show.”
“After the play happened, I was on punt return and I asked Earl Bennett, ‘Bro, did I just get a sack’? I felt him going to the ground, but I didn’t know if he threw the ball away or not.”
Wootton has demonstrated what it means to be successful on and off the field and how to successfully transition out of the NFL, but he is not done with fulfilling his future goals.
Besides football and broadcasting, Wootton has a goal of entering real estate development long-term within the next 5-10 years, he and his wife have already fixed up six homes in St. Louis where he currently resides.
“I’ve always loved real estate and fixing up older homes, the before and after process,” Wootton said.
“My wife and I had flipped six homes the past two years. There is a lot of money to be made in real estate. It’s all about connecting with the right people.”
As Wootton has proved in two ways of life already, connecting with others is not a hard thing for him to do.
Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media