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Bears’ Nick Roach shows support for friend’s family

Bears linebacker Nick Roach looks back scoreboard as he walks off field after Chicago Bears lost 23-17 overtime Seattle Seahawks

Bears linebacker Nick Roach looks back at the scoreboard as he walks off the field after the Chicago Bears lost 23-17 in overtime to the Seattle Seahawks Sunday December 2, 2012 at Soldier Field. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 7, 2013 9:58AM

Nick Roach starred at Northwestern, and he started for most of his six seasons with the Bears, but he prefers to stay out of the spotlight.

That was until he heard that Sam Henke, a classmate at Milwaukee Lutheran High School, died after a three-month battle with liver disease.

When he heard the news, Roach felt compelled to step out of his comfort zone and help Henke’s family.

“If you’re going to be in the public eye, you want to do it for the right reason,” Roach told the Sun-Times. “It wasn’t about me being in the public eye, but you need as many contributors as you can get.”

Roach is days away from unrestricted free agency, and he’s expected to draw interest from a handful of teams, including the Bears. But Roach’s focus has been on Henke’s 28-year-old widow, Amy, and the hospital bills she and her family must pay down.

For most of the last month, Roach has set up different items to auction off, from autographs from heralded athletes like Brian Urlacher and Ernie Banks, to ticket packages to the Bears-Packers game and training sessions with him.

He even offered to lend his voice to a winner’s voice mail message.

“We started off not knowing what to expect,” Roach said. “We were just hoping to get a bid on everything at first.”

His initial goal was $5,000, but he easily surpassed that, and the tally is up to about $17,000.

Amy Henke wasn’t available for comment, but she’s been overwhelmed by the support of her high school friend.

“She texted me all throughout the two weeks, expressing gratitude,” Roach said. “The fact of the matter is, it was a tragic event, and this is the least we could to help the situation out.”

Roach said Henke’s family never provided a specific number for the medical bills, but he suspects they didn’t raise enough.

Roach doesn’t want any credit, though, because he takes a personal perspective. In fact, his wife Anna-Marie was encouraging him to do all he could to help.

“I don’t think there’s any story of losing a spouse that’s easy, even if they’re older,” Roach said. “It doesn’t make it any easier.”

This can be an anxious time for players, as they prepare for free agency. But Roach said he’s not at all stressed.

“I’m just excited to see what happens,” he said. “I don’t know what to expect, really.

“We’ll know a lot more in the next week or two.”

He’s had plenty to keep him busy, in addition to helping Amy Henke. He recently saw Bears Charles Tillman, Kellen Davis and Matt Toeaina at the Players Outreach Conference, and he penned a post about training his three Pit Bulls for the Urban Living the Wright Way blog.

Roach said he’s loved his time in Chicago and that his wife enjoys the city. But she’s a native of San Diego, and he’s willing to go wherever he’s afforded the best opportunity.

Roach, though, doesn’t have specific demands. He’s not necessarily going to take the most lucrative offer, or the most playing time, or even a specific role.

“Just best overall situation,” he said. “You take everything into consideration, like quality of life, teammates, coaches, chances of winning.”

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