LAKE FOREST – You can learn a lot about somebody by the kind of shoes they wear.
A woman once told me that. She was trying to sell me expensive shoes.
I didn’t buy the shoes, but I remember the line.
So when Bears players Martellus Bennett and Jermon Bushrod were introduced to media members Wednesday at the Walter Payton Center, I couldn’t help but notice their shoes.
Bennett wore white Nike sneakers beneath his black dress pants and blazer. The sneakers had a gigantic red “swoosh” on the side. The laces purposefully were untied and the shoe tongues were stretched wide, which is a style trend that first-graders everywhere might appreciate.
On the other hand (or on the other foot), Bushrod dressed as if he had arrived for an important job interview. He wore spotless brown dress shoes beneath a navy blue suit with a baby blue tie.
Come September, both players will look great in Bears cleats.
An introductory news conference typically follows a familiar pattern. The general manager of Team X discusses what led him to sign Player X, and then Player X expresses how happy he is to join Team X.
No practice session or game comes after these news conferences. Because of that, it’s impossible to know exactly how the player’s strengths and weaknesses will fit into his new team’s system.
But these events can offer lots of clues about a player’s personality.
Bennett has a loud one. Bushrod has a quiet one.
The Bears should be better off because of the mix.
Think about how dreadful your workplace would be if everyone were super-serious all of the time. Or think about how unproductive your workplace would be if everyone were a class clown.
Balance is important, and the Bears provided more of that to their locker room this week.
Take Bennett, the 26-year-old tight end who caught 55 passes for 626 yards and five touchdowns with the New York Giants in 2012.
“I’m excited to be a Chicago Bear,” Bennett said. “Bears are one of my favorite animals, after dinosaurs. I don’t think there are any dinosaurs in the NFL, so, Bears, it’s a great thing to be.”
Bushrod laughed from his nearby seat. He knew that the serious tone of his comments would not top Bennett’s comedy routine, but he appreciated his new teammate’s light and fun approach.
“That’s key,” said Bushrod, a two-time Pro Bowl left tackle with the New Orleans Saints. “He’s the ice-breaker. For me, I’m more the quiet type until I get to know everybody.”
Nothing wrong with that.
We’re still getting to know Bears coach Marc Trestman, but he comes across as a serious leader type. I suppose anything is possible, but I would really, really doubt that Trestman will be starring in a “Harlem Shake” video anytime soon – which is probably best for all of us.
Yet Trestman can appreciate a colorful personality, even if he draws his plays and black and white.
“That’s what makes football great,” Trestman said. “It brings people from all different perspectives. And as long as the team comes first and selflessness is a part of the comments and not selfishness, I think we’re in a good place.”
On his first full day with the Bears, Bennett didn’t speak out of selfishness.
Goofiness? Yes, for sure.
Bennett was happy to explain the origin of his nickname, “Black Unicorn.” He said white unicorns were common but black unicorns were rare, which was kind of how he saw himself.
“One day, I had black tights on and I was running down the field, and I just felt like a unicorn,” Bennett said. “I didn’t feel like a horse, I felt like a unicorn. So I just said the ‘Black Unicorn.’
“It was nothing special about it. It was just a flare of the moment. I like it, though. I like the nickname. It’s like the ‘Black Mamba’ for Kobe [Bryant]. It’s magical. I enjoy magic. I’m a Harry Potter fan.”
Whether it’s Quidditch or football or anything else, a balanced workplace can be a happy workplace.
People develop relationships. They come to appreciate their differences and offer complementary strengths.
Bushrod saw that concept come to life in New Orleans a few seasons ago. That’s when he earned a Super Bowl ring to go along with those fancy brown dress shoes.
“That’s what gets you to a Super Bowl – not going out and practicing every day,” Bushrod said. “You’ve got to do that. That’s your job.
“But if you have a relationship with these guys off the field, if you all get together, then you’re emotionally invested in these people and you want to do better for them.
“That’s life. That’s what this thing is about.”
• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.