Where are they now: Henry Waechter

Dubuque Iowa native Henry Waechter, a dominating defensive end first at Waldorf College, then at the University of Nebraska, may not have been a household name during the Bears drive for the 1985 Super Bowl title, but he did make his mark on the game.

"I got a safety during the fourth quarter," Waechter said recently. "I'm still really proud of that fact."

Looking back on that incredible season Waechter used one word to summarize the entire experience, calling it ‘thrilling.' Then he began to offer more details as he thought back to those days almost 20 years ago.

"The Bears had such an amazing defense that year. It was like an unstoppable force," Waechter said. "Just look at the roster and you'll see all of the big name players we had. Most of them became nationally famous. They were great teammates and most are still very close friends. You can't go through something like that and not have some serious bonding between the participants."

For Waechter 1985 exceeded his wildest expectations.

"Growing up I always hoped to reach the top, but realistically I don't think I ever saw a Super Bowl in my immediate future. But this just goes to show that you never know what might occur. And the fact that I was able to contribute in the Super Bowl in a positive way made it even better."

Clutch contests and championship games weren't anything new to Waechter by the time he was picked by the Bears in the seventh round of the 1982 draft. An outstanding member of the league leading defense at Waldorf, Waechter earned All-Region honors and was named to the NJCAA All American first team in 1978. He was inducted into Waldorf's Hall of Fame shortly after graduation.

Moving on to Nebraska, Waechter had his first experience with a big college program. There he was able to build and expand on his JC success. The talented DE led the Cornhuskers to a Sun Bowl victory during his junior year and was instrumental in getting Nebraska to the Orange Bowl as a senior.

"I think that big games like that get the adrenaline pumping," Waechter said. "It's the most fun when everything's on the line. Luckily this type of experience in college translated well into the Super Bowl. At the time, it was just another ‘must win' for me. But that particular game turned out to be the highlight of my three years with the Bears."

After four seasons in Chicago, Waechter moved on after 1985 as he signed with the Baltimore Colts. He then played a year with the Washington Redskins before retiring at the end of 1987. Now he and his wife Tami live in Grand Island Nebraska where he owns and operates an agricultural supply firm.

"By 1987,it had become very clear that the time had come to leave professional football," Waechter said. "Although I was relatively injury free during much of my career, I eventually had some serious shoulder problems that required surgery. The Redskins wanted me to sign a waiver releasing them from liability should I get hurt again. That definitely told me that it was time to move on to other endeavors."

What he misses most about leaving the pros isn't the game, but the day-to-day friendship of his teammates.

"As a full time businessman in Nebraska, I just don't get the opportunity to return to Chicago as much as I'd like," Waechter said. "My life is very different from what it was 20 years ago. But I keep up with the guys as much as I can. I enjoy talking with Hartenstine, Hampton, and McMichael. We were close then and still are. But for the most part, our lives have moved far away from football. That's why it's so much fun to have this opportunity to return to Chicago (for the Fan Convention) and relive the old days."

Waechter remembers the ‘85 squad as a group of determined individualists who meshed amazingly well.

"It was a loose bunch of characters, but we all got along quite well. We tended to do things in an offbeat way, but amazingly, that approach usually worked. What many people didn't take into account at the time was the perseverance of the team. We may have had fun off the field, but during a game we were all business. We listened to our coaches and followed their lead."

In Waechter's mind, a strong bench also played a part in the championship.

"We were cogs that were somewhat interchangeable. There was talent and depth at every position. If a starter happened to go down, there was always somebody strong to step right in. There was never any desperation or loss of momentum."

Waechter remains loyal to the franchise that brought him into the league.

"I'm still a fan of this team. I think that once the current players get the chance to settle in just a bit, it should be a great season coming up. There's no reason this group can't accomplish what we did. It may take a while but if the players are patient and keep giving it everything they've got, these Bears can do very well."

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