Robert Tonyan’s family and friends did not have to travel far for his NFL home games over the past five seasons.
They can knock a couple hours off of that next season when the 2012 McHenry East graduate’s team plays at home, because Tonyan, who played 68 games over the last five seasons in Green Bay, is coming to Chicago.
Tonyan agreed with the Bears on a one-year deal on Thursday. He had been a favorite target of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in two of the last three seasons. His 2021 season was limited to eight games after he suffered a torn ACL.
Tonyan (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) caught 52 passes, with 11 touchdowns, in 2020, his breakout season. He caught 18 before the injury in 2021, then logged a career-best 53 receptions last season, gaining 470 yards and scoring two touchdowns.
Former McHenry coach Dave D’Angelo was thrilled to hear that Tonyan was coming even closer to home.
“Here’s a guy who could jump out of the gym and one of best athletes in McHenry ever had,” D’Angelo said. “How could he not make a roster? Every time I see him on the field, he never drops a ball. This is a steal for the Bears.
“He has deceptive speed. Those long strides, and he’s worked so hard to get where he’s at. He has really good route-running ability.”
Tonyan is one of the offensive upgrades the Bears have made, along with adding wide receiver D.J. Moore from Carolina through a trade last week.
Quarterback Justin Fields now has Moore, Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool as his wide receivers, along with Cole Kmet and Tonyan at tight end.
Tonyan was a two-sport standout at McHenry, where he played quarterback in football and forward on the basketball team. He was selected as the 2012 Northwest Herald Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
He was recruited as a quarterback to Indiana State, but switched to wide receiver as a sophomore and thrived at that position. Tonyan is second on ISU’s career reception list (150) and tied for ninth in career scoring (140).
Tonyan signed as an undrafted free agent with Detroit, then was picked up by Green Bay for the 2018 season, where he mainly played on special teams for two seasons.
In 2020, Tonyan’s big moment came as Rodgers kept finding him in key situations. His 11 touchdown receptions tied Kansas City’s Travis Kelce for most in the NFL for a tight end. That number also tied Paul Coffman for the Packers’ season franchise record.
What D’Angelo said about Tonyan’s sure hands was evident in 2020 by his 88.1% catch rate, which was third in the NFL for the regular season, behind teammate Jamaal Williams (a running back at 88.6) and Buffalo wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie (88.2).
Tonyan has come back to McHenry in the offseasons and talked to the football team.
“He’s always been a great kid, too, real humble and down to earth,” D’Angelo said.