As Bears' Virginia McCaskey turns 100, Matt Eberflus remembers first message

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As McCaskey turns 100, Eberflus remembers matriarch's first message originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Thursday marks an important day for the Bears as owner Virginia Halas McCaskey turns 100. Turning 100 is a monumental day for anyone lucky enough to see it, but in McCaskey's case, it serves as a reminder of the incredible football life she has led.

Sunday's season finale against the Minnesota Vikings will mark the conclusion of Mrs. McCaskey's 40th season as the principal owner of the Bears, making her the longest-tenured owner in the NFL.

Head coach Matt Eberflus has only been part of the Bears' family for 11 months, but his time around McCaskey has left a lasting impression. He still remembers her first words to him after he was hired to lead her franchise.

“Very impactful," Eberflus said of McCaskey on Wednesday. "Her first conversation that we had together was over the phone, and her last comment was, she goes, ‘Matt, you know I’ll be your biggest fan.’ That’s what she said to me."

Born in 1923, McCaskey grew up learning about the Bears from his father, George Halas Sr., who initially joined the club as a player and coach in 1920. The franchise was known as the Decatur Staleys at that point.

Halas acted as the Bears' owner for six decades and is the franchise's winningest head coach.

Despite spending her entire life around the franchise, McCaskey was not the first pick to take the torch from her father. That distinction fell to her younger brother, George "Mugs" Halas Jr., who worked in the front office for almost three decades. But Halas Jr. unexpectedly died of a heart attack in 1979.

When Halas Sr. passed away in 1983, Virginia McCaskey took over as the owner of one of the NFL's marquee franchises and has been an impactful presence ever since.

That matriarchal impact is one still felt around Halas Hall as she marks her centennial celebration.

"Just me talking to her at the gala and some different events when she’s here, she had lunch with Kelly here one day which was great," Eberflus said of McCaskey's presence around the Bears. "Got a chance to speak to her then and then always encouraging, always upbeat, always thoughtful, and it’s been a joy to get to know her this last year.”

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In the 40 years that McCaskey has been at the helm, the Bears have earned 14 postseason bids, won 11 division titles, and made two Super Bowl appearances. Thirty Bears have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame during McCaskey's time, with Devin Hester, a 2023 finalist, having a chance to be number 31.

McCaskey has seen it all when it comes to the Bears, and her impact is still ever-present for one of the NFL's marquee franchises.

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