CHICAGO — There are a number of football fans who recognized the name of the first person that the new Bears’ president and CEO spoke about during his introductory news conference on Tuesday.
After all, he is a native of the city, starring as a defensive tackle at Chicago Vocational High School and then at Notre Dame in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Bears drafted the two-time consensus All-American in the second round of the 1991 NFL Draft and he would play with the franchise through 1997.
“I think the gentleman who helped me start this journey is here in Chris Zorich. He asked me to represent him as his agent in 1992,” said Warren, mentioning this player early in his introductory statement at Halas Hall Tuesday.
Naturally, it was quite a moment for Zorich, who spoke to WGN News Now this week about the new president and CEO of the Bears.
“I honestly felt like a proud dad or a proud son, seeing his dad kinda do something that was so monumentus,” said Zorich. “As he mentioned, I never figured that as he was going head-to-head with (then director of finance and now outgoing Bears CEO) Ted Phillips for my contract that he would ever be in Ted’s shoes.”
But now he is, as Warren fondly reflected on watching Zorich play for the Bears at Soldier Field in the mid-1990s and the faith this player had in him at an early moment in his career.
“The good thing about that, that day and that time, I had just started my sports agency,” said Warren. “Chris was my first client, and for the first year was my only client, which afforded me the opportunity to really learn and understand truly what the Chicago Bears stands for and what it means.”
Now the team and fans are finding out what Warren stands for as he takes arguably the most important job in the franchise. One of the people who would know a lot about that is his first client, whom he signed when the now Bears’ president started his first agency, Kevin F. Warren and Associates in 1992.
The pair had met when Zorich was at Notre Dame and Warren was teaching classes after his graduation from law school.
While extolling a number of positive traits about his former agent, Zorich pointed to his ability to value everyone he interacts with along with his encouragement to those around him to be well-rounded members of society as Warren’s most unique attributes.
“I think people who will interact with him for the first time will come back amazed because they’re going to say, ‘Wow, this is the president and CEO of the Chicago Bears and I’m the maintenance guy at The Home Depot, and he needed to come in and grab a couple of screws or hammers or something like that and he treated me like a person,” said Zorich. “If you’re a maintenance person, if you’re a salesperson at The Home Depot, or you’re his CFO, you are going to be treated the exact same well. I think that’s special because he’s had a chance to see a lot of things but he’s also experienced a lot of things as well.
“So he mentioned the chance to take a group from the Big Ten down to Selma, Alabama (A 2022 trip made by Warren and conference athletes to civil rights sites). He didn’t have to do that, but he thought it was important. This was kind of learning beyond the four walls.”
Those lessons were taught to Zorich when Warren was representing him in the NFL, doing so through a piece of technology at the time: A fax machine. The agent would send the Bears’ defensive tackle and others he represented news clips on topics outside of the game of football.
“The idea to use these news blurbs when you were out in public, whether you were talking to the media, at a cocktail party, but really around the non-athletic, non-football crowd, and really wanted to allow folks to see us as people and not necessarily as a professional athlete,” said Zorich.
The lesson of those faxes is what lasted the longest for Zorich, who graduated from Notre Dame law school. Since then, he’s served as an athletic director for Prairie State College then Chicago State University and is now a partner at Randall Partners, LLC.
“In reality, he was showing me that ‘Hey, Chris, you can be more than just the football player you are for the Chicago Bears,'” said Zorich “I think that anyone who has the chance to interact with him or has a chance to spend some time with him, will come away and saying that, ‘Wow, this is a really special person and, oh, by the way, just happens to be the president and CEO of the Chicago Bears.”
Larry Hawley has more from Zorich on Warren’s hire as Bears president and CEO from WGN News Now in the video above.