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1985 Bears Coverage: Bears’ Tomczak proves a fighter

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.

Bears’ Tomczak proves a fighter

Herb Gould

Originally published Aug. 29, 1985

On Monday night in Dallas, after Mike Tomczak threw an interception onhis first play, he was thinking, “What’s going to happen next?”

Then Tomczak remembered who he is. “Mike Tomczak is a winner. He’s a fighter,” said the Thornton Fractional North graduate who came to the Bears by way of Ohio State. “I’m going to do whatever it takes.

“I’m sure the commentators and critics will remember that interception,” said Tomczak, who has won a job as the Bears’ No. 3 quarterback. “But you just try to put it out of your mind. You’ve got to go on and say, `Hey, you’ve got to drive this team down the field and put some points on the board.’ ”

That’s what he did, pushing the Bears to their lone touchdown, which temporarily gave them a 13-12 fourth-quarter lead. Tomczak finished the night completing five of eight for 70 yards.

In the scheme of things, the interception was a minor setback compared to draft day when Tomczak, despite a fine career at Ohio State, was overlooked by all 28 NFL teams. “The longest day of my life,” he said.

But the next day, the Bears called, and Tomczak put aside the draft snub the way he shook off Monday’s pickoff. “I have a lot of confidence in my ability to play the game,” he said.

For that, he thanks his father, Ron, who was his high school football coach, a job he gave up so he could watch Mike’s last two years as the Buckeyes’ quarterback.

“My dad always pushed me one step further than the next guy,” Tomczak said. “When I was 8, I was playing against 10- and 11-year-olds. When I was 14, I was playing against 16- and 17-year-olds.

“The better the competition, the better player you’re going to be. Especially as you move up. Everybody’s All-Something.”

Asked if he ever felt his dad – who guided Thornton to the Class 5-A semifinals in 1980 with Mike at quarterback – ever pushed too hard, he said, “No. Never. You can never be ridden too hard, because you can never be too good. I’d do the same thing if I was a coach.”

Still, Tomczak said he isn’t cut from the swashbuckling quarterback cloth. “I’m a humble person,” he said. “I try to keep everything in perspective. It’s pretty tough to do at the quarterback position, because people stereotype you as an outgoing, sarcastic person. But when my number is called, I just want to go out there and do my job the best I can.”

It’s a concept Bears’ coach Mike Ditka appreciates. “He has a pretty good understanding of where he’s going in life. And he’ll get there,” Ditka said.

Asked if that means being a starting NFL quarterback, Tomczak said, “I’d like to set my goals like that. The first year is basically an initiation year. And I’m no dummy. I know Jim McMahon and Steve Fuller are great quarterbacks. But my opportunity will come someday. And I’m going to be ready.”

For now, he said, his goal is, “When No. 18 gets in the ballgame, I don’t want there to be any dropoff from No. 9 and No. 14. Last year, there was a big dropoff when McMahon and Fuller were injured. I don’t want to be looked at as the third-team quarterback. I just want to uphold my end of it, so I’m trying to learn as much as possible and be ready to play.”

Both McMahon and Fuller have helped make things easier, he said.

“When a veteran says, `Hey, Rook, I’ve been through the same things. This is how you do it,’ it helps tremendously,” Tomczak said.

And when he’s the veteran, Tomczak no doubt will return the favor.