As Bears legend Steve McMichael is hospitalized, wife Misty balances hope, grief

The Hall of Fame has become the McMichaels’ focus, and about 50 people rallied in support of his candidacy outside the hospital where he is in care.

SHARE As Bears legend Steve McMichael is hospitalized, wife Misty balances hope, grief
A photo of Misty McMichael speaking at a rally outside Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox.

Steve McMichael’s wife, Misty, speaks at a rally for his Hall of Fame candidacy outside Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox.

Jason Lieser, Chicago Sun-Times

It has been a brutal two years for Bears legend Steve McMichael and his wife, Misty, as he has endured the devastation of late-stage ALS, and the last two days were especially turbulent.

McMichael went to the intensive care unit at Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox on Thursday night with sepsis and pneumonia. He was unconscious, and Misty said the doctor told her it was the end.

McMichael, however, bounced back enough to spark some optimism. And Misty teared up as she looked over a crowd of about 50 people who showed up in the hospital parking lot to rally support for McMichael’s Hall of Fame candidacy.

That hope has kept McMichael going, and it has become Misty’s quest, as well.

“It has been so meaningful,” she told the Sun-Times, struggling to speak through the emotion. “Look at this. They’ve made me so happy. They love us. I didn’t realize we had this much support here, but we really do.”

McMichael, 65, remained hospitalized Friday and was conscious. Misty tried to balance her optimism with the grim reality of McMichael’s disease. She described him as “rested and doing well” and anticipated that he would be released to return to their home in nearby Homer Glen.

“He’s not ever gonna be OK again, but he’s gonna make it,” she said. “Hopefully till next August.”

That’s when McMichael would be enshrined in the Hall of Fame if he keeps advancing, and that bid has become Misty’s focus. She said McMichael has part of a speech done and wants former teammate Walter Payton’s son, Jarrett, to introduce him at the induction.

“Mongo” was a star defensive tackle on the Bears’ 1985 championship team as part of a stellar 15-year NFL career. He stands second in franchise history in sacks (92½) and third in tackles (814). He was an All-Pro in 1985 and ’87 and second-team All-Pro in ’86 and ’91.

When McMichael went public with his ALS diagnosis in April 2021, coach Mike Ditka remembered him as the ideal player.

“He didn’t take any [nonsense] from anybody, including his teammates,” Ditka told the Sun-Times. “You had to love his spirit and the way he went about playing the game. He was special. He didn’t have all the talent . . . but he gave it everything he had all the time.

“Steve McMichael was always one of my favorites. There was no quit in the guy.”

McMichael’s past Hall of Fame nominations were unsuccessful, but he has a chance this time thanks to the seniors committee, which is considering players who stopped playing no later than 1998. It narrowed the list to 31 in mid-July and 12 last month, leaving McMichael with a shot when it selects three finalists Aug. 22 to be voted on for induction. Those players will be announced at the Super Bowl in February.

Each step in that process gives Misty a new goal. She’s relentlessly trying to keep McMichael alive and on the voters’ minds. She said McMichael had a do-not-resuscitate order, but the decision was made Thursday to rescind it because she believes he wants to live long enough to see that he has made it.

“The Hall of Fame would mean everything to him — this is the pinnacle,” she said. “He would really love to get in there. He’s always talked about it.

“He always thought they would do it after he died, but I think that would be the worst thing ever. . . . Even if you’re not sure you want to put them in there on his stats, how about the sympathy vote? He’s dying and he deserves it.”

That isn’t part of the Hall of Fame criteria, but it doesn’t matter. That’s how McMichael feels, and it’s shared by those in Homer Glen and likely throughout the Chicago area.

That sentiment was the spark for the event Friday, which came together in a matter of hours.

Homer Glen village trustee Dan Fialko, unaware that McMichael was hospitalized the night before, called Misty on Friday simply to check in and find out how to get some Team Mongo shirts to wear at an upcoming board meeting to promote him for the Hall of Fame.

When Misty gave him the troubling news, Fialko relayed it to Mayor Christina Neitzke-Troike, and the impromptu rally was born.

“He’s been a huge support to the community, and it’s time that we give back to him,” Neitzke-Troike said. “This is to let the people who are making the decision on the Hall of Fame know that Homer Glen wants him there. This is a dying man’s wish.”

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