Updated: December 9, 2013 5:01PM
Mike Ditka. Fitness. Cow poop.
Those were the main topics Monday at an NFL “Fuel Up To Play 60” event at Pulaski International School. With NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Bears owner George McCaskey, and former players Otis Wilson, Hunter Hillenmeyer, and Anthony Morgan in attendance, the league and partners such as the National Dairy Council, GENYOUth Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Education, announced they are committing $250 million more to the fitness and nutrition program geared to youngsters.
Besides one youngster asking Goodell during a question-and-answer session what he does with cow poop — the commissioner responded “to some people I think that’s how I spend my whole day, dealing with that kind of thing” — there was plenty said about Ditka, whose number 89 was scheduled to be retired during halftime of Monday night’s Bears-Cowboys game.
“He is not only a great Hall of Famer and someone who continues to give back to the game of football, but he was one of those unique guys who could contribute on the field as a player and as a coach, and then continues to contribute to the game,” Goodell said. “I think it is a great recognition and it’s well deserved.”
McCaskey and the Bears announced that decision in May, making 89 the 14th and apparently last number the Bears will retire. It’s a decision that sounded like an easy one, too.
“He’s the most iconic Bear alive. He’s ‘Da Coach.’ It’s perfectly appropriate,” McCaskey said. “He had a great career as a player and although this doesn’t really go directly to retiring (the) jersey, you can’t ignore the fact that he was the coach of the Super Bowl Bears.”
The honor also symbolizes the repair of a once-frayed relationship between the Bears and the man who coached them to their last NFL championship.
“Well, the fact of the matter is Coach Ditka and Coach Halas didn’t always get along. When he left as a player there were bad feelings and when he left as a coach there were bad feelings,” McCaskey said. “But he’s shown that once a Bear, always a Bear and one of the greatest Bears ever.”
Wilson was a part of that 1985 team, and played six seasons under Ditka, saying his former coach is “what Chicago’s all about.”
“Cold weather, put a chip on his shoulder,” Wilson said. “He’s done very well when he played. We all know what he’s done in 1985 and in the 80s for the Chicago Bears team. And to be honored, I mean he’s finally getting his just due.”