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Ex-Bears coach shares the epic welcome Mongo gave him at his first training camp

Ex-Bears coach shares the epic welcome Mongo gave him at his first training camp originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Steve “Mongo” McMichael will finally get the call to the Hall of Fame on Thursday night, a source confirmed to NBC5 Chicago. It’s a well-deserved honor for the Super Bowl winning defensive tackle who helped to set the tone for a nasty defense that is considered one of the best in NFL history.

Mongo was a mean man to line up against on the gridiron, but former Bears coach Dave Wannstedt remembered a warm welcome from McMichael when he joined the team. Wannstedt will never forget that it was Mongo who handed him a game ball when he won his first game as a head coach back in 1993.

On a recent episode of the Under Center Podcast, Wannstedt fondly recalled a time when McMichael took care of not only him, but the rest of the Bears coaching staff during his first training camp as a head coach.

“We were in our third week of two-a-days, full pads, no days off, for players, coaches, everybody. Mongo and Keith Van Horne came up to me after practice and said, ‘Hey coach, can we talk to you.’ I said, ‘Sure, what’s up?’ They said, ‘Coach, we're up to our third-straight week of two-a-days, full pads, morning and afternoon, every practice.’ I said ‘Gee, you know what guys I didn’t give it much thought. I tell you what, let’s have good practice and tonight we'll be off, no curfew. I’ll give everybody off.’”

The Bears did have that good practice and Wannstedt kept his word. He gave the team the night off with no curfew. But there was one caveat.

“There’s one bar that you can’t go to in Platteville: the American Legion downtown. That’s the coaches’ bar. Stay outta there. Go anywhere else. I don’t care if you drive back to Chicago. Don't go, that's what we're going to be. I'm going to be there.

“So sure enough, we get done with practice, we watch the tape. The whole staff, we load up into cars and we get down there. We walk in, and who’s sitting at the bar with his little dog? Mongo. I walk in and he looks at me and he smiles. And he chugs his beer– I remember this like it was yesterday– and he reaches in his pocket– Keep in mind that the American Legion in ‘93 or ‘94, beers were probably 20 cents a draft. Maybe a quarter…he reaches in his pocket and he slaps 100 down and he says ‘Take care of these coaches.’

“I think our guys drank all night for that 100. He was the best.”

The 2024 NFL Hall of Fame class will be officially announced at the NFL Honors show on Thursday night.

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