Catching up

The Bears Convention is a win-win situation for both players and their fans. While football aficionados get a chance to be 'up close and personal' with their favorite Bears, current and former players enjoy the opportunity to catch up with former teammates and old friends.

"The only other time I get to see many of my friends from the Bears is during charity golf outings," said LB Jim Morrissey (1985-93). "Just looking across the room right now, I can see 'Mongo', Hampton, and Otis Wilson. That's great. I haven't seen them for a while and I'm looking forward to finding out what they've been up to."

The Morrisseys, who live in the northern suburbs, make the fan convention a family event by booking rooms at the Hilton for the weekend.

"It's a great chance for my kids to meet some of my buddies and to become acquainted with other Bears players as well," Morrissey said. "They also enjoy the Interactive Kids Area. It is very well designed and has a lot to offer. This is something we can enjoy together. We always look forward to this event."

Has Morrissey left football behind for good?

"You know, if I'd been asked that question a year or so ago, I would definitely have said yes. Recently, however, I've been talking with Mike Singletary who just signed as a defensive line coach with the Ravens. It made me think about the possibility of returning to the game in some capacity. So I'd say that although my playing days are over, maybe I'm not completely done with the NFL. We'll just have to wait and see what happens."

T Jimbo Covert (1983-90) enjoys the chance to see if his former teammates are staying in shape.

"I am in the health and fitness business," Covert said. " Being athletically inclined since childhood, it has always been important to me to be in the best condition that I can achieve at any given point in time. If I see anybody I know who looks as if he is getting soft, you can be sure that he'll hear from me about it. We don't want to be giving the Bears a bad image."

Covert credits his current success in business to his former team roommate RB Matt Suhey.

"When we were on the road together there was always a lot of downtime," Covert said. "We enjoyed those chances just to sit around and talk. The most important thing that Matt ever told me was to get a job the day I was finished with football. 'Don't give yourself the luxury of a vacation' he'd say. 'You'll find that you enjoy sitting around doing nothing and before you know it, it's become a bad habit.'

"You know what? Matt was right," said Covert. "I went to work immediately after my football days were over. I loved the discipline of the business world. In many ways, the routine wasn't that different from the NFL. I think that much of my business success came from getting out there and making myself useful right away."

Legendary QB Bill Wade (1961-66) keeps in shape and stays active while tending to his horses at his farm in Nashville.

"This has always been my part of the country," Wade said. "It was natural for me to come back here after I was done with football. Sure, I still follow the Bears and I do go to some games, but my day to day life is involved with the horses. It's very peaceful. Something that I enjoy doing this much has made it a very easy transition from the world of football to the rest of my life."

Wade's teammate, Ronnie Bull (B 1962-70) works with a promotions company in Elmhurst.

"Sure I miss the game but all I have to do is to wake up each morning and I'm right back there on the field," Bull said. "I still feel every hit in my legs, my arms, and my back. Remember, there wasn't much in the way of protective padding available at that time. The older you get, the more it comes back to haunt you."

Did Bull enjoy playing the game while he was with the Bears?

"There was nothing like it," he said. "Being a Bear was about the best that you could be in those days. The surroundings in Wrigley Field were really something special. The crowds were close to the field and the atmosphere was electric. I think that the players felt that energy. It always gave us an extra boost and put our opponents at somewhat of a disadvantage. I feel certain that it gave us an edge during our championship season in 1963."

Mike Hartenstine (DE 1975-1986) hasn't strayed far from Lake Forest where he is a bartender the Lantern, a popular village watering hole.

"I liked this town when I trained here as a Bear, and I enjoy it just as much today." Hartenstine said. "I watch football on TV now and I don't really miss it all that much. The players now are huge compared to what we looked like. I'd hate to get hit by some of them, right now, that's for sure."

Hartenstine enjoys seeing both fans and players at the annual convention.

"This event is a highlight of my year," he said. "For the fans, I'd say that this is our way of paying them back for their support and their loyalty over the years. We owe them so much "he says. "For the players, it is one of the only chances we get to socialize and catch up. There is a very strong feeling still between many of us. We went through a unique experience as Bears. It's fun to get together like this, to talk about the old days, and to be Bears again, even if only for a day or two."

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