ROSEMONT, Ill. — Generations of fans are colliding at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center as the Bears kick off their centennial celebration.
A sea of blue and orange flooded River Road for the festivities, which brought legends like Mike Ditka, Richard Dent, Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus, Devin Hester and many more together, under one roof, for the first time.
“I couldn’t believe the amount of people trying to get in here,” remarked Butkus. “It’s six deep and it goes all around this building.
“It’s a hell of an organization. I get a kick out of all these players who say how great the fans are in Tampa Bay or Seattle. I’m like, ‘Give me a break.’ They must not have been here in Chicago.”
“You don’t take life for granted. It’s a gift from God,” noted Ditka, who recently suffered a health scare. “I’ve had a couple setbacks lately but I’ve had a great life. I’m fortunate to be here. You don’t take anything for granted. Health and happiness come together. So far I’m relatively healthy but I’m very happy. I’m happy to be a part of this. This means a lot to me.”
Players spanning over six decades of a Bears football had a chance to trade stories and share their adoration for one another.
Former Bears offensive lineman Jay Hilgenberg praised head coach Matt Nagy’s new looking offense saying his brain is probably the shape of a football.
Steve McMichael was quick to offer some advice to a team now dealing with a similar set of expectations to the ones the Bears of the 1980s dealt with.
“I told coach Nagy, I know the league rules say you can’t make them hit anymore, but you can run the [expletive] out of them. Because the team that gets tired first loses the game. Now who is in supreme shape wins the game.”
Saturday and Sunday fans will get a peek behind the curtain for legendary panels and contemporary talks from morning to night as Rosemont reminisces all of the Bears glory present and past.