It's always fun to reminisce about the greatest team in history, the 1985 Chicago Bears, but what a treat it is when we have the opportunity to pick the brain of one of the key contributors to that ferocious defense. That's right, all-time great Gary Fencik was kind enough to lend a few minutes to Windy City Gridiron to answer some questions. Gary, thank you so much for doing this... we are truly honored.
1- Who was the most talented safety you ever played in tandem with? I was fortunate to play next to several All-Pro safeties in Todd Bell and Dave Duerson. Both were awesome hitters and great teammates but I’d be overlooking the biggest influence I had as a safety if I didn’t include Doug Plank. Doug taught me what it takes to play safety in the NFL and I am sure my career would have been different if I had not had the opportunity to line up next to Doug for the 5-6 years we played together.
2- What current NFL safety is comparable to you? I don’t really think it’s fair to make comparisons given how long it has been since I retired. I certainly admire guys like Ed Reed at Baltimore or Bob Sanders from Indianapolis who have such impact in every game they play.
3- If McMahon is healthy do the '86 Bears go undefeated? I don’t know about undefeated, but no doubt in my mind we go beyond the first playoff game.
4- They called you Hit Man. It's been 25 years, admit it, you did know what they meant. I think all of us who participated in the SB Shuffle would have reviewed our lines a little more carefully if we knew the impact it would have decades later. If Hit man is a reference to John Madden’s comment that I was Clean Dirt, then I take it as the ultimate compliment.
5- If given the opportunity, would you have left the Bears to finish your career with Buddy Ryan in Philadelphia?
If Buddy asked, I don’t know how I could say no. But, there are few players who get to play football for 12 years in their hometown and voluntarily retire. I have no complaints.
6- Is there any defining moment that you can point to, in which you and your '85 teammates realized that you were the best team in professional football? For me, the Dallas game was a signature statement. I told a friend who came into Chicago that week from Hong Kong that if we won the Cowboys game, I thought we had a good chance to go to the Super Bowl. With a 44-0 win, we knew we were good enough.
7- Who was the biggest trash talker on the field, on that great '85 Bears D? Talker or Barker!? Pretty tough call between two or three guys. Since they are all bigger than me, no sense in getting in trouble now.
8- Most underrated attribute that makes a good free safety? Patience. It’s always tempting to react or move too quickly, but particularly at free safety, you have to remember you’re the last line of defense. You have to have a passive/aggressive streak in you to make your read but recognize no matter how ugly on a tackle, you have to bring the guy down. It is amazing to me how poorly safeties read their keys to determine run or pass when I watch the games on TV.
9- What's your favorite Buddy Ryan story? Give us some good dirt. Buddy told me the week of the Super Bowl that he was going to Philadelphia and I was afraid to ask any of my teammates if they knew. The night before the Super Bowl, Buddy gave a very emotional speech to the defensive guys and as usual, he left but we stayed to watch one reel of film before breaking up. As he left, I turned to Mike Singletary and said "I can’t believe Buddy’s leaving". I saw those big eyes of Mike’s and knew Buddy hadn’t told him. To this day, I never asked any of the other guys and appreciated the trust Buddy had in me that I wouldn’t say anything. Playing for Buddy was a real honor and gaining his trust was never easy, but once it was established it was a bond that never breaks.
10- Besides Lovie Smith, who is your favorite Head Coach or Coordinator in the league today? People talk about the ’85 Bears legacy, but don’t think about its impact on the NFL today. I always thought Mike Singletary would be a great head coach but what about my backup, Jeff Fisher. I know Leslie Frazier and Ron Rivera are already outstanding D coordinators and will also become very good head coaches in the near future. Finally, even the ’85 ball boys are doing pretty well with Rex Ryan coaching the Jets and his twin brother, Rob, coaching the Cleveland Browns as the D coordinator.
Want to know what Gary Fencik has been up to lately?
Allstate Puts ’85 Bears Legacy in ‘Good Hands®’ by Bringing ‘Allstate Glory Days’ to Chicago to Honor Historic Team’s 25th Anniversary
Nov. 5 event to feature appearances by head coach Mike Ditka and former players
NORTHBROOK, Ill. – Sept. 16, 2010 – To protect the 25-year legacy of the Chicago Bears’ historic 1985 championship season, Allstate Insurance Company today announced title sponsorship of Allstate Glory Days, a tribute event, which will take place Nov. 5 in Chicago at the Arie Crown Theatre. Fan’s can purchase tickets to this one-night only event at glorydayschicago.com or ticket master.
Allstate Glory Days will give fans the chance to re-live that historic season on a night filled with behind-the-scenes details and never-heard-before storytelling from arguably one of the greatest teams in pro football history. Confirmed to be in attendance thus far are head coach Mike Ditka, Dennis McKinnon, Steve McMichael, Gary Fencik, Jim McMahon, Willie Gault, as well as members of Walter Payton’s family, on what will be a memorable night in Chicago. The made-for-TV program will be broadcast locally by NBC 5 (WMAQ-TV official television partner) on Dec. 4 at 7 p.m., and again Dec. 19 and Jan. 8. ESPN 1000 is the official Glory Days radio partner.
"It’s been 25 years and time to honor the heroes of Super Bowl XX. I can't wait to see Buddy Ryan and all the players at the Glory Days Event on November 5th. It’s going to be a great night and is a long time coming," said Mike Ditka.
"Twenty-five years later, we still find ourselves comparing teams to the 1985 Chicago Bears, but in the minds of Chicagoans, no team will ever compare," said Mark LaNeve, chief marketing officer for Allstate. "The team is a testament to hard work and excellence, and Allstate is honored to have a hand in protecting its legacy. The team is a source of pride for our hometown of Chicago, and there is no better reason than that for Allstate to be involved."
Make sure to check out the Glory Days official site for more information. Mr. Fencik, thanks again sir. You are a class act, and we are honored to have had this opportunity!