Photo by Jorge G. Norrick
Former Chicago Bear Dan 'Danimal' Hampton delights an audience of some 600 Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce members and guests at the chamber's Holiday Sports Luncheon at the Tinley Park Convention Center.
TINLEY PARK -- Holiday cheer filled the air recently as nearly 600 Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce members and guests gathered for the annual Holiday Sports Luncheon.
The event always attracts a huge crowd and with former Chicago Bear and NFL Hall of Famer Dan “Danimal” Hampton topping the program, this year’s gala was no exception.
The Tinley Park Convention Center hall was abuzz as chamber members and guests networked, bid on a tempting array of silent auction items and purchased tickets for the grand raffle that benefits the Chamber Foundation for college scholarships.
However, the lunchtime pulse settled down as Hampton stepped on stage. The football hero did not disappoint as he shared gridiron stories from the past, commented about this year’s team and of course, talked about legendary Coach Mike Ditka who led the entire 1985 team to its historic Super Bowl victory.
First, however, Hampton lamented the outcome of the Dec. 2 Bears game.
“Sunday afternoon was so bad, so disappointing – a real travesty,” he said of the team’s overtime loss on the home field to the Seattle Seahawks. “We all want the Bears to get into the playoffs and we expected so much more.
“(Coach) Lovie (Smith) has got to look in the mirror. He didn’t do a good job of preparing the team, and we have to get to 11-5 (wins to losses). If we don’t win at least three more games, we won’t be in the postseason, and if he (Smith) doesn’t get those three, I don’t think he’ll be back.”
Of course, everyone wanted to hear about the 1985 superstars and former Coach Mike Ditka who recently suffered a mini-stroke.
“There are lots of stories about Ditka. He was crazy. I don’t know if I could get him in (a mental health ward), but if I got him in, I wouldn’t be able to get him out,” he said, triggering a huge round of laughter.
Talking about his former Chicago Bears teammates, Hampton credited each for outstanding skills but saved his top accolades for Walter Payton who died in 1999.
“He was the greatest football player ever,” Hampton said.
Reminiscing about his draft by the Bears, the 1985 Super Bowl win and his 2002 induction into the NFL Hall of Fame, Hampton credited much of his success to years on the University of Arkansas Razorbacks under Coach Lou Holtz.
At one point the team lost its focus and Holtz came in to talk to his defeated players.
Hampton said Holtz told the team, “’I don’t know how we can have so much talent and have such a bad team.” Holtz told each player to write down his personal goal.
Hampton wrote he wanted to win a championship.
Holtz, who minced no words, approved but told Hampton, “You misspelled ‘championship.’”
Holtz figured into Hampton’s life even after the defensive star moved on to the NFL.
“In 1985, Lou Holtz called me in August to congratulate us on winning the Super Bowl.” The season had barely started but Hampton said Holtz told him the team was special and it was going to take the championship. Of course, his prediction was on target.
The Chamber audience devoured Hampton’s tales but as the legendary Super Bowl champ wound down, his words were directed to the audience.
“Each and every one of you should be positive in your own special way. You can do it.”