Every day of the 2015 Chicago Bears season, Chicago Sun-Times Sports will revisit its coverage 30 years ago during the 1985 Bears’ run to a Super Bowl title.
Just call him Mr. Touchdown
Originally published Nov. 4, 1985
GREEN BAY, Wis. Steve McMichael, one of the few men on Earth big enough to have difficulty sneaking up on William Perry, quietly cornered his prey in the Bears’ lockerroom late yesterday afternoon.
Then, cupping his hand over Perry’s ear, McMichael slowly began to sing.
“They always call him Mr. Touchdown. Da da da da da da da da.”
Ah, William, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you and sings your praises.
Yes, friends, the saga of the Refrigerator – the football player who is half offense, half defense and all laugh riot – took on another dimension yesterday as the Bears remained unbeaten by overtaking the Packers 16-10.
While the two teams were giving their interpretation of Wrestlemania, and while Walter Payton was proving that guys who only play on offense can have a productive role in society, too, Perry was moving into a tie for second place among Bears who have caught touchdown passes this season.
Nearly everybody present at Lambeau Field knew something was up when Perry joined the Bears’ backfield in the final minute of the first half. The Bears had the ball second-and-goal on the Green Bay 4, the sort of short-yardage situation that Perry helped turn into three touchdowns when these teams met in Soldier Field two weeks ago.
But those who thought Perry was there to run or block had to think again. Before you could say “Refrigerator in motion,” Perry was trotting along behind the offensive line, cutting upfield into the end zone and reaching for a pass from Jim McMahon.
It was Perry’s first touchdown reception. In fact, Perry insists, it was the first pass of any kind he has ever caught in a football game.
Of such stuff are dreams made and legends embellished.
This brief synopsis of the latest of William’s Adventures in Touchdownland makes it all sound quite easy, when in truth it was anything but that. There were a few moments when it appeared Perry’s
chance to tie the likes of Willie Gault, Emery Moore head and Matt Suhey in Bear touchdown receptions this season might never be realized.
Perry had no sooner entered the game when all sorts of strange things started happening.
Packer linebacker Brian Noble waved his hands, imploring the 55,343 loyal Packer backers to lend their moral and vocal support. For his part, Green Bay coach Forrest Gregg sent in fresh reinforcements from the bench.
Wave of the future
The crowd began to scream so loudly that the Bears were unable to get a play off.
The referees made a rare public announcement that because of the “crowd noise situation,” the 30-second clock limiting the time the Bears had to run a play was being turned off.
The Packers then started waving for their fans to keep the noise down.
After several such false starts, the Bears finally got things moving. McMahon crouched behind center. Payton, who has been at this a little longer than Perry, moved the fledgling flanker back a step.
McMahon began calling signals. Perry moved along the line. McMahon took the snap. Perry, unencumbered by any defenders (“They probably thought I was going to block somebody”) turned up into the end zone. McMahon threw the ball. Perry caught it.
The luckless George Cumby, who was the victim of Perry’s goal-line touchdown and touchdown-producing blocks in Chicago, was once again the goat, being the man television replays showed was closest to Perry.
Pandemonium. Hysteria. The Bears led and eventually won.
Perry was his usual low-key, unaffected self when a media mob anxious to chronicle his latest improbable feat showed up at his locker.
“I don’t want to let it get inside my head and get a big head,” Perry said of his sudden notoriety. “You can’t live on it.
“You’ve got to just let it come one day and go the next.
“You don’t let it build all up and get beside yourself.”
An achiever as a receiver
Asked what he was thinking as he went out to catch the pass – greater fame, fortune and endorsements, perhaps? – his answer was, “I was thinking if the ball was thrown I was going to catch it. I had to avoid the safety.”
Perry said his teammates teased him because he didn’t spike the ball, an action that might have created a home for a family of gophers in the end zone.
“It was too cold,” Perry said of his anxiety to get back to the bench. “My hand was freezing.”
If Perry caught the ball as if he’d been doing it all his life – he made a nifty little move with his hands to haul it in – that just goes to show that when you’re hot, you’re hot. He may have run with the football in the distant past – and dunked a basketball and done a 1 1/2 gainer off the low board – but not before yesterday had he ever caught a pass.
“The one today was better,” Perry said when asked to compare this touchdown with the one he scored against the Packers at Soldier Field. “It was a new situation.”
You mean running with the ball is becoming old hat?
“No, it’s beautiful, too. This is just something new. It’s all fun to me. I love it.”
While the rest of the football world waits nervously to see what Perry’s next incarnation will be (Drop-back passer? Single-wing tailback? Drop-kicker from 50 yards?), Perry must wait as well.
Friday is play day
Not until Friday, two days before the upcoming game, is he made privy to the latest chapter from Mike Ditka’s book of football sorcery. Then the Bears practice it two or three times and go on to something else. The next time Perry tries it is in a game.
“You don’t know what Coach Ditka is thinking,” Perry said. “It’s been a surprise.
“I have to wait and see. I guess he figures if he tells me, I’ll think about it all day. I’ll have to wait until Friday to see what Coach Ditka has in the playbook.”
Lost in the shuffle of Perry’s latest feat was the fact that he also made his first start at the position he was hired to play – defensive tackle. The results there were not as spectacular, although on one occasion he did force Packer runner Eddie Lee Ivery to take the polar route to gain what could have been a straightforward 11 yards.
Eventually, defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan took Perry out, saying, “I thought you needed a little rest.”
“I said he was wrong,” Perry said.
Fatigue, like time, flies when you’re having fun.