On the first day of the 1977 NFL Draft, Emery Moorehead sat impatiently and waited for his name to be called. One by one, the names were rattled off. Five of his Colorado teammates went, but Moorehead waited.
That night, he was a nervous wreck and barely slept. On the second day, the Giants selected Moorehead in the sixth round with the 153rd overall pick.
It’ll be 42 years ago next week since Moorehead, who was the captain at Colorado and helped lead the Buffaloes to the 1976 Big 8 championship, heard his name called. Though the ceremonies have become more extravagant over the years, one thing hasn’t changed.
“Everybody has something to prove when you come into the league,” Moorehead said in a phone interview. “Every year there’s going to be more drafts, more players selected. You’re not irreplaceable.”
It doesn’t matter where you fall in the draft, but rather what you do with the opportunity to live our your dream, Moorehead said. He’s living proof of that.
After he was drafted, Moorehead inked a three-year deal with the Giants with a $6,500 signing bonus, equivalent to roughly $28,000 today which is pocket change for the modern NFL player.
“It was good money back then,” Moorehead said. “I was living in New York and living comfortably . . . But you get to live the dream, that’s a big thing.”
Moorehead, an Evanston native, went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL, including eight with the Bears, a team he grew up admiring. He’s most grateful for the chance to be part of the colorful cast of characters that comprised the 1985 Bears.
“A lot of fans — women especially — who never ever followed football became fans because of the ’85 Bears,” Moorehead said. They never saw anything like our defense until they saw the ’85 Bears, which today, they would be locking them up after the game and taking them to jail for all the hitting-style of play they did.
“People got so into it and wanted to learn about football because of the ’85 Bears and the characters we had with Jim McMahon, Mike Singletary, William Perry, he was called ‘The Refrigerator.’ Everybody was making commercials, everybody had their own TV and radio shows. Everybody just wanted a piece of the Bears, and it was a great thing for Chicago.”
Growing up near Chicago, Moorehead understood what it would mean to the city if the Bears were to win the Super Bowl that season. He remembered one distinct moment during the playoffs when he tried to explain the significance to his teammate Leslie Frazier.
“If we ever win a Super Bowl, this team will never be forgotten,” Moorehead told Frazier in 1986. “The only thing that would ever kicks us off the pedestal is if the Cubs win the World Series.”
Thirty years later, Moorehead called Frazier one day after the Cubs beat the Indians in Game 7 to win the 2016 World Series, and said, “I told you this was going to be huge.”
Moorehead retired three seasons after the Bears won the Super Bowl. He’s forever grateful for the lessons he learned from coach Mike Ditka, who told it like it was. And he’s happy he still has the opportunity to connect with his former teammates. Moorehead also said he’s looking forward to the Bears’ alumni event this season, which will celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the franchise.
After the NFL, Moorehead sold real estate in Northbrook and Deerfield for 27 years. He also volunteered a lot of his time to the Boy Scouts, doing everything from leading their golf tournament to selling popcorn.
“They tell you, if you got something out of scouting, put something back in,” said Moorehead, who earned the rank of Eagle Scout in 1969 and was honored with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award in 2012. “So the week of my retirement [from the NFL], the Northeast Illinois Council called, and I was on the board all the way until 2016.”
Now at 65, Moorehead is retired. He spends his time between Denver and Chicago. Since retiring, Moorehead has put more of a focus on his physical health. He is awake every morning by 6:30 and stretches.
Asked how he feels physically, Moorehead said: “I feel like I played 12 years of professional football.
“A lot of my body is in great shape but I do have physical pain in my back almost every day and that’s why I have to stretch every day, to get the back loosened up. Everything else is in OK shape for what I’ve been through.”
If he’s not golfing, Moorehead is hitting up one of the 30 trails around his neighborhood. He said he goes on two to three hikes per week.
“I’m just enjoying life, staying healthy and [working to] live a long time,” Moorehead said.