Mike Ditka Jersey

Mike Ditka, Pro Football Hall of Fame player and Super Bowl-winning coach, joined ESPN as an NFL analyst in 2004.

With a combined 26 years of playing (12) and head coaching (14) experience, Ditka is an analyst on Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown and makes regular appearances on ESPN Radio and SportsCenter. He also served as a booth analyst during the Monday Night Football doubleheader in 2007 and 2008, alongside Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic of Mike & Mike in the Morning. Ditka previously worked as both an analyst and commentator at CBS and NBC.

Ditka has amassed a career few can match. He is only the second person to win the Super Bowl as a player (Dallas, 1972), assistant coach (Dallas, 1977), and head coach (Chicago, 1986). After earning All-America honors at the University of Pittsburgh, the tight end enjoyed a stellar 12-year NFL playing career. He was named NFL Rookie of the Year and selected All-Pro six times. He also caught a touchdown in the Cowboy’s Super Bowl VI win against the Miami Dolphins.

As an assistant coach with Dallas, Ditka’s teams made it to the playoffs eight times, including the 1977 Super Bowl victory. In 1982, he assumed the head coaching job in Chicago, and in 11 years, collected six NFC Central titles, three NFC championship game appearances, and the Super Bowl XX title (1986) for which he was named Coach of the Year.

He again earned the honor in 1988 after coaching the Bears to the NFC championship game. Mike Ditka left Chicago in 1992 only to return as head coach of the New Orleans Saints in 1997. He retired from coaching in 2000.

In addition to broadcasting, Ditka owns and operates Ditka’s restaurants with locations in Chicago and Pittsburgh. He also continues to generously devote himself to varied charitable endeavors, including numerous anti-drug and prevention campaigns. He founded The Mike Ditka Foundation in 1989 to raise funds for Misericordia, a residential facility for developmentally disabled children, and also for pediatric AIDS research programs.

When he was the coach of the Bears, the team held its summer training camp in Platteville from 1984 to 2001.

Tom Waddle Jersey

Players leave the Buffalo Bills for the New England Patriots, looking to find out firsthand what it’s like to be on the dynastic side of the NFL tracks.

Stephon Gilmore, Chris Hogan, Mike Gillislee and Scott Chandler are among prominent former Bills who recently got their taste of being a part of the league’s gold standard. Gilmore and Hogan have Super Bowl rings to show for their Patriot experiences.

For the past four seasons, LaAdrian Waddle was a Patriot. But the offensive tackle’s career has traveled in the opposite direction of the Orchard Park-Foxborough, Mass., path. In March, Waddle signed with the Bills as a free agent.

“It’ll definitely be interesting, once we come around to playing (the Patriots),” Waddle said during a recent conversation with The Buffalo News. “But I felt like this was a good opportunity for me. I felt like the Bills believe in a lot of things I believe in, as far as hard work and kind of a blue-collar attitude and just how to go about things.

Waddle, 27, was one of six offensive linemen the Bills signed in free agency. He’s among three tackles the team added, joining fellow free agent Ty Nsekhe and second-round draft pick Cody Ford, who the Bills initially plan to play at right tackle.

Waddle was a part-time starter for the Patriots. He’ll compete for one of the starting spots Dion Dawkins and Jordan Mills filled last season. At the very least, Waddle should provide solid depth one would expect from a veteran entering his seventh season.

“As of now, it’s just a bunch of guys trying to learn each other, trying to get to know one another,” Waddle said before the draft. “And as a group, we’ll slowly grow. It takes some time, honestly. That’s what this time is for, to get to know each other, to get the bond. Once we start doing more football stuff, we’ll pick that up and we’ll kind of see the personalities, how guys play. Then it’s up to the coaching staff to put that all together as the product on the field.

“I could do anything you want me to do. As far as physically, I feel like I can handle whatever blocking assignment I need to do. And then, as far as the mental part of the game, I’m seven years in now. I’ve seen a lot of stuff playing against a lot of guys, and I feel like I can digest the playbook well and I have a good understanding of what’s going on. So that kind of helps me play faster than, I guess, someone who doesn’t know the playbook as well without that experience.”

He has coaching connections with the Bills. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was an offensive assistant with the Patriots for part of Waddle’s time in New England, and Bobby Johnson, the Bills’ new offensive line coach, was assistant offensive line coach of the Detroit Lions for a portion of the three seasons Waddle spent with them. The Lions signed him as an undrafted free agent from Texas Tech in 2013.

Waddle started 24 of the 30 games he played for the Lions before assuming more of a reserve role in New England. Yet, even though he made only seven starts for the Pats, he left with Super Bowl rings. That puts him in a far loftier place than everyone else on the Bills, who have made only one playoff appearance in the last 18 seasons … and it was as fluky, one-and-done wild-card entry.

As far as Waddle is concerned, however, the contrasting history of the franchises doesn’t tell the whole story, especially in the time that he resided in the AFC East penthouse.

The biggest difference of all must come from quarterback Josh Allen. Since 2015, Waddle has had an up-close view of arguably the greatest quarterback – if not player at any position – in the history of the game.

He realizes there will be an adjustment from protecting Tom Brady, regardless of who is working behind him.

“There’s only one Tom Brady, let’s be real,” Waddle said. “But seeing Josh and what he’s capable of and just knowing the talent’s there … and I think, going from your rookie year to your second year, that’s when you take a big jump, personally. I know he’s going to do everything in his power to improve and get better. It’s just something that, obviously, we don’t know how it’s going to play out, but I believe he’ll do the right things and I think he can really make an impact.”

As iconic as Brady might be, Waddle always felt they had mutual respect as players who saw each other as nothing less than teammates striving for a common goal. It’s one of the tenants of the “Patriot Way.” “Team-first, players play for each other,” Waddle said. “That was a big deal there, and I know it’s huge here.”

Bill Belichick is the architect of the “Patriot Way” ethos. Going from the very top of the NFL’s coaching food chain to Sean McDermott, who enters his third season as a head coach with a 15-18 record (counting the postseason) is another significant transition for Waddle.

William Perry Jersey

A dedication was held Thursday afternoon on William Perry Elementary School’s playground for not only a symbol but a physical reminder of the school’s dedication to stop bullying.

Donated by the Waynesboro Kiwanis Club, a “Buddy Bench” was installed.

“Hopefully, it will lead to new friendships,” said Sara Loker, a guidance counselor at William Perry Elementary School and the K Kids Club advisor, at the dedication.

Loker, third grade teacher Shami Pizarro, second grade teacher Christine George, and Christi Phillips worked with the Waynesboro Kiwanis Club to bring the Buddy Bench to the school’s playground.

This year was the first for the K Kids Club at William Perry Elementary. The club’s Kiwanis sponsor was Billie Quigley.

Loker said the K Kids Club’s 20 members in grades third through fifth took field trips during the academic year to Waynesboro Area Refuge Ministry and made sandwiches, did crafts with residents at Summit Square in Waynesboro, rang bells for the Salvation Army at Christmas time and conducted a recycling program.

According to Loker, the Waynesboro Kiwanis Club provided guidance for K Kids to get started.

K Kids Club is a way to “get kids to focus on leadership and service in the community.”

“It was really a successful first year,” Loker said.

The bench gives students the opportunity to interact with their peers they would not normally have a chance with which to interact.

“It’s a visual representation of someone saying: ‘Hey, I’m feeling left out. I need someone to play with,’” Loker said.

William Perry Elementary Principal Tammy Hipes said the Kiwanis Club “supports us in a lot of different ways.”

Kiwanis supports Raising Resources for Readers (RRR), which enables the school to obtain books from the Green Valley Book Fair, and provides food bags at the end of the week.

“I think [the Buddy Bench is] a fantastic idea,” said Hipes. “It’s very much something I think the kids will participate in and use.”

Hipes said she has confidence that students at William Perry Elementary will go sit with a student they see sitting alone on the bench.

“I think it’s a great concept,” Hipes said.

The bench is also a wonderful way to teach students “how to step up to the plate and make new kids or kids who feel out of place feel part of the group.”

Bob Barrette, Waynesboro Kiwanis Club Secretary, said the K Kids Club members were asked to perform 2,500 service hours, then the Kiwanis Club would give them a special prize.

“And they met their goal,” said Barrette.

Loker said in the beginning of the academic year, the K Kids Club began to meet and set goals for achievement, and members said they wanted a Buddy Bench for the school’s playground.

“I think it’s a way of dealing with bullying in a proactive way by steering school leaders to take an active lead,” Barrette said of the bench.

Evelyn Moles, 10, is a member of K Kids and in 4th grade at William Perry Elementary.

Her grandfather, Mike Moles, is in Kiwanis, and encouraged Evelyn to join the elementary school chapter.

“I like it, because I get to help people,” said Evelyn, who would like to become a veterinarian when she grows up.

Brian Urlacher Jersey

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Brian Urlacher played his way into the pantheon of Bears linebackers and the Hall of Fame over his 13-year career in Chicago, leaving no question he belongs among the all-time greats.

Where he stacks up with the best of the best in team history is still up for debate.

Hall of Fame writers Dan Pompei and Don Pierson ranked the top 100 players in franchise history for the team’s official site, and Urlacher fell outside of the top 10.

Urlacher came in one spot ahead of fellow legendary linebacker Mike Singletary, but the greats of pre-merger era earned many of the top spots on the list.

Dick Butkus came in second to only Walter Payton, while old school legends Bill George and Bulldog Turner ranked seventh and eighth, respectively.

It’s difficult to compare linebackers that played 50 years apart, especially when stacking them up with players at other positions.

Urlacher is still near the top of the list of the best Bears ever. They just have so many all-time greats, the likes of Dan Hampton, Richard Dent and Jimbo Covert just don’t have a spot in the top 10.

Dick Butkus Jersey

The poll was part of the “Chicago Bears Centennial Scrapbook” that is being sold by the team online.

Payton played 13 memorable years with the Bears and is second on the NFL’s All-Time rushing list with 16,726 yards. He surpassed Jim Brown’s old record for rushing in 1984 and held the record for 18 years until Emmitt Smith broke it with the Dallas Cowboys in 2002.

A seven-time All-Pro, nine-time Pro Bowler, and the 1977 NFL MVP, Payton helped the Bears to their first and (so far) only Super Bowl title in 1985.

He was named to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1993 — where he was introduced by his son Jarrett Payton, who is now an anchor on WGN-TV and CLTV Sports Feed.

On Nov. 1, 1999, Payton died of complications from primary sclerosing cholangitis, a chronic liver disease.

Linebacker Dick Butkus was the second best, followed by Bronko Nagurski, Sid Luckman and Gale Sayers in the Top 5.

Mike Singletary Jersey

When Mike Singletary talks about anything defense-related, you tend to pay attention.

Such was the case on 1st & 10 @ 10 when the guys had the Hall of Fame middle linebacker on to chat Denver Broncos and what makes a good inside linebacker.

Since Singletary has been around the NFL for so long, he knows about new Broncos head coach Vic Fangio. Given that, what does Singletary think about Fangio and the hire to be Denver’s head coach?

“Time will tell about the hire itself,” Singletary said. “But what he’s been able to do as a coordinator has been extraordinary. I think he’s done a great job of putting the right guys in the right position and being able to have a scheme that allows them to play at the best of their ability.”

Steve Atwater said it best about Singletary.

When the Broncos legend looks at middle linebackers, Atwater said they don’t make them like Singletary anymore. That brought forth a good question from Atwater — what characteristics make up a great inside linebacker?

“I think one of the best characteristics that make up a really good middle linebacker is instincts,” Singletary told the guys on 1st & 10 @ 10 on Thursday. “A guy can be fast. A guy can be tough. You can put a guy who has never really played linebacker and you see a guy start to pick up things. So to me, that’s the No. 1 characteristic of a really good middle linebacker.”

What will be fun to watch for over the course of training camp and preseason is how Fangio and defensive coordinator Ed Donatell best utilize both Todd Davis, Josey Jewell and the other middle linebackers on the roster. We know Fangio has a scheme that puts players in the best situation to have success, and Jewell already loves Fangio’s coaching style and his defense. They won’t turn into Singletary, but both Davis and Jewell have the instincts he said are key.

Gale Sayers Jersey

Running back Gale Sayers is fifth on the list. The “Kansas Comet” set 23 Bears records and seven NFL marks during his career and was the youngest player ever inducted into the Hall of Fame at age 34 in 1977. In winning the NFL Rookie of the Year Award in 1965, Sayers set a league record with 22 touchdowns and tied another mark by scoring six TDs in an unforgettable performance against the 49ers.

Tight end Mike Ditka is ranked No. 6. Before he became “Da Coach” in the 1980s, Ditka was one of the NFL’s greatest tight ends. Ditka was voted to five Pro Bowls in six seasons with the Bears from 1961-66, catching 316 passes for 4,503 yards and 34 touchdowns. He remains the Bears’ all-time leader in all three of those categories among tight ends and was the first tight end inducted into the Hall of Fame in1988.

The rest of the top 10 is rounded out by middle linebacker Bill George at No. 7, center/linebacker Bulldog Turner at No. 8, defensive end Doug Atkins at No. 9 and guard Danny Fortmann at No. 10.

Click through the photo gallery below of the top 25 players in Bears history, a list that also includes Richard Dent, Dan Hampton, Devin Hester, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher.

Walter Payton Jersey

Prior to becoming the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith was chasing Walter Payton. Smith eventually took over that crown from the Chicago Bears legend and ended his illustrious career atop the league’s rushing chart. Prior to Payton’s passing in 1999, Smith had a chance to sit and talk with the Hall of Fame running back.

In a video clip that was shared by Payton’s son Jarrett on Smith’s birthday, the legendary Bears back asked Smith to keep tabs on his son after he passed away.

“I had never seen a person with so much strength,” Smith said when he saw Payton battling with his illness. “To face his situation the way he did. There he was, a man who was actually dying, encouraging me. Basically, I had to ask the question if there was anything I could do. Hey said, ‘No, I’m good. I’m at peace with where I’m at.’ But he said, “Every now and then just reach out to my son Jarrett and make sure that he is okay. Stay in touch with him and just be there for him if he needs you.'”

The younger Payton had this message for Smith on the post:

“Happy Birthday to my running back uncle Emmitt Smith,” he wrote. “You’ve really kept your promise to my dad.”

The clip came from Smith’s appearance on In Depth with Graham Bensinger where he discussed many different facets of his NFL life.

The elder Payton announced in February 1999 that he had a rare liver disease called primary sclerosing cholangitis. He passed away on November 1, 1999 at the age of 45. Taken with the fourth overall pick in the 1975 NFL Draft out of Jackson State, Payton quickly created a legacy with the Bears. He was a nine-time Pro Bowler, seven-time All-Pro, won the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Year award twice, was the NFL’s Man of the Year in 1977 and also won the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 1977. The league later named its Man of the Year award the Walter Payton Man of the Year award.

He capped off his career in 1987 and racked up 16,726 yards on 3,838 carries with 110 rushing touchdowns in 13 seasons. He was later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993 with Jarrett introducing him at the event.

Smith entered the league in 1990 as a first-round pick out of Florida by the Dallas Cowboys. He broke Payton’s record in 2002 and ended that season with 17,162 rushing yards. He went on to spend two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals in 2003 and 2004. He ended his career as the league’s all-time leading rusher with 18,355 yards. He also scored 164 touchdowns during his 15-year career.

Smith was an eight-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro, won the league’s Most Valuable Player award in 1993 and was the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1990. He was later inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

The younger Payton played soccer during the early days of his high school career before turning his focus to football. He played collegiately at Miami between 1999 and 2003. He ended his collegiate career with 1,496 rushing yards on 299 carries with 10 touchdowns. He also caught 28 passes for 226 yards with one touchdown. He spent time with the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe in 2005 and was part of the team that won World Bowl XIII. He went on to join the Tennessee Titans during that regular season, finishing the year with 105 rushing yards on 33 carries with two rushing touchdowns. He also caught six passes for 30 yards. After some stops with the Montreal Alouettes and the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, Payton played three years with the Chicago Slaughter of the Indoor Football League.

Jarrett Payton had the privilege of having a Hall of Fame father in Walter Payton and it appears he has another Hall of Fame “uncle” who still keeps tabs on him.

Devin Hester Jersey

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Devin Hester is the latest big addition to the Bears100 Celebration Weekend.

The record-breaking return specialist will appear at the June 7-9 event at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont to help the Bears celebrate their 100th season.

Hester will sign autographs and join former teammates Charles Tillman, Olin Kreutz, Roberto Garza and Patrick Mannelly on a special panel to discuss the 2006 team that reached the Super Bowl by winning the franchise’s first NFC championship since 1985.

Hester was a rookie in 2006 when the Bears captured their second straight NFC North title under coach Lovie Smith, compiling a 13-3 record. The dynamic second-round pick from Miami set an NFL single-season record by returning five kicks for touchdowns.

Hester followed by becoming the first player in league history to return the opening kickoff of a Super Bowl for a touchdown, dashing 92 yards to give the Bears a 7-0 lead in an eventual 29-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

It was just the beginning of an illustrious career for Hester, who in eight seasons with the Bears became the NFL’s all-time leader with 18 kick return touchdowns and 13 punt return TDs. He was voted to three Pro Bowls, won 13 special teams player of the week awards and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team for the 2000s.

Tillman was selected by the Bears in the second round of the 2003 draft out of Louisiana-Lafayette. He made an immediate impact, becoming a starter four games into his rookie season and quickly developing into a star playmaker.

Tillman set Bears records with nine defensive touchdowns, eight interception return TDs and 675 interception return yards. His 36 interceptions are the most by a cornerback in team history and third most overall behind safeties Gary Fencik (38) and Richie Petitbon (37).

Kreutz was voted to six Pro Bowls in 13 seasons with the Bears from 1998-2010, anchoring the offensive line while winning four division championships. The Washington product appeared in 191 games with 183 starts, one shy of Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton’s franchise record.

Garza spent 10 seasons with the Bears, starting all 16 games in seven of those seasons. Durable and versatile, Garza played guard during his first six years with the team before switching to center following Kreutz’s departure.

A 1998 sixth-round draft pick out of Duke, Mannelly played his entire career with the Bears, setting franchise records for most seasons (16) and games (245). A model of excellence and consistency throughout his career, he helped the Bears win division championships in 2001, 2005, 2006 and 2010.

Other panels at the Bears100 Celebration Weekend will feature Hall of Fame middle linebackers Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher; and quarterbacks Jim McMahon and Mitchell Trubisky.

The Bears100 Celebration will feature the ultimate gathering of Bears fans and current and former players. The entire 2019 team and coaching staff, along with Bears Hall of Famers and alumni, are scheduled to attend. The weekend will include free autograph sessions, photo opportunities, panels, memorabilia and merchandise sales, interactive games, kids activities and a walk-though Bears history zone.

Jim McMahon Jersey

KAKE NEWS ON YOUR SIDE INVESTIGATES spoke exclusively with one first round draft pick who knows all too well about the head injuries that can follow and the long term consequences. 1985 Chicago Bears quarterback, Jim McMahon is as out spoken today about concussions as he was a mad man on the field of play. He talks with us about the very injuries that drove so many players he loved to take their lives and offers some advice for anyone suffering a concussion.

“I had a great time playing I got to play with seven different teams, play with a lot of different players and coaches,” McMahon said. “And that’s what you miss, just kind of hanging out with your buddies.”

But every broken record, every touchdown, and all that fame and fortune came with a price.

“Oh, I got pounded a lot,” McMahon said. “There was quite a few I was surprised I even got up from.”

McMahon took a few moments out of a visit with a friend in the hospital in Chicago to Skype with us because he feels so strongly about this. He’s notoriously outspoken about concussions. Since 2.5 million Americans visit emergency rooms every year with head trauma, 250,000 of those kids, his star power certainly helps.

“All these sports where there are those collisions and people hitting the ground and hitting their head, you’re going to have some problems and to get them diagnosed, that’s the biggest thing – get these people diagnosed properly,” McMahon said.

Despite the best efforts of sports, from the professional to the pee wee level, the suicide rate among athletes is on the rise. In March, Olympic cyclist, Kelly Catlin took her own life just months after suffering a concussion. Her family mentioned one key clue was a personality change.

It’s those signs, changes in personality, memory loss, and irritability that are commonly found in the scores of athletes who’ve taken their lives. That worries health care professionals like Dr. Kimberly Molik, who treats young athletes every day at the Wesley Pediatric Concussion Clinic.

It’s something McMahon knows all about.

It’s the extreme symptoms like depression or suicidal tendencies that Dr. Allen says raise the most concern. But, she says, not enough concussion victims do get the help they need, ignoring signs, determined to tough it out.

“I remember one game in college, I got knocked out in the first half, came back, played the second half. Didn’t remember I played. Didn’t know… I didn’t remember how to call the plays,” McMahon said.

“We do know that still almost two thirds of kids will return to play during that same game. And if not, they still return to play before their concussive symptoms have resolved,” Molik said.

Much like Kallie Hutchison, an El Dorado teen we introduced you to last year. A football and basketball player, she was recovering from her second concussion at the time.

“I couldn’t stay in school for more than an hour, for at least a week. I slept all day, couldn’t do my homework, couldn’t look at anything,” Hutchison said. “Sports are kind of my life” she said.

Her attachment to sports, despite her injuries, something McMahon shares. We asked if he would do it all over again and he said he would.

“I would rather play baseball. That was my that was my first love anyway. But I would. I would still play football again. I mean, I love the game. I don’t want the game to go away. This is not what this is all about,” he said.

With athletes unwilling to give up their game of choice, McMahon advises instead, better diagnosis.

“Every player should be have a head/neck x-ray, before every season, after every season,” he said. “If you get dinged in a game, just throw them in the MRI machine for five minutes.”

He’d also like to see some changes in how we play the game he loves.

“This game is violent and I don’t know what else we can do other than take the helmets, go back to the old leather helmets, and see how many guys use their heads then,” McMahon said.

For youth who refuse to admit they’re struggling but are showing behavior or personality changes, Dr. Allen suggests forcing them to see a psychologist, even if they refuse to talk.

McMahon has said in many interviews, if he had had a gun at the worst of his pain, he would have used it. He’s glad he didn’t have that access.

“You have to put your ego aside,” McMahon said. “You can only play for so long. And, you know, most of us have a pretty long life. So, if you want quality of life when you’re done playing, you’ve got to take care of yourself.”