Legendary Bears defensive tackle Steve “Mongo” McMichael, a star of the 1985 championship team, has been diagnosed with ALS.
“I promise you, this epitaph that I’m going to have on me now? This ain’t ever how I envisioned this was going to end,” McMichael told the Chicago Tribune.
Former defensive end Dan Hampton told the Sun-Times on Friday that he’s visited his “brother for the last 40 years” two or three times per month since his January diagnosis. Two weeks ago, he took fellow Hall of Famer Richard Dent with him. He said he’s been impressed by McMichael’s humor and his wife Misty’s attitude.
“What do you say? What do you do? How do you respond?” Hampton said. “It’s a like a plane crash. You don’t know what’s up. You have to start making contingency plans.
“I admire him so much. He and his wife’s attitude has been just spectacular. If something like that happens to me or most people, you become bitter. Moribund. To his credit, his attitude has been exemplary. The whole thing is like a bad dream.”
McMichael, who is 63, was one of “a half-dozen alpha males” on the 1985 Bears’ championship team, Hampton said.
“To see that now he’s not in a position where he’s able to control his life, it’s a sobering gut punch,” he said.
McMichael had concerns about his health for several years, but was in good shape and spirits when he appeared at the Bears 100 convention in 2019. He quoted a line from Russell Crowe in the movie Gladiator to describe the rock-star reception he received at the event.
“‘Your name echoes through eternity,'” he quipped. “That’s some pride, isn’t it?”
McMichael, 63, played for the Bears from 1981 through ’93 and was not only one of their best players of that era, but of all time. He was an all-pro in 1985 and ’87 and made third-team all-pro three times.
The Patriots drafted him in the third round in 1980 and — in a fortuitous moment for him and the Bears — cut him a year later. The Bears signed him and quickly installed him as a starter.
McMichael finished his Bears career with 814 tackles, 92.5 sacks and two interceptions. He is second in franchise history in sacks and third in tackles.
He played his final season in 1994 for the Packers before retiring and performing as a professional wrestler from 1995 through ’99.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to support the costs associated with McMichael’s diagnosis. Hampton said there will be a Wrigleyville fundraiser for his friend later this month.