CRYSTAL LAKE – Legends of the gridiron gathered to share stories, laughs and even a few jabs celebrating Pro Football Weekly’s 50th anniversary Saturday night at the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake.
A half-dozen Pro Football Hall of Famers gathered onstage for “Football Legends Live!” The star-studded event honored Pro Football Weekly’s “Team for the Ages” and “Bears Team for the Ages.”
The two-hour live program featured Brian Urlacher, “Mean” Joe Greene, Lawrence Taylor, Anthony Munoz, Randy White and Dan Hampton, along with emcees Pat Boyle and PFW’s own Hub Arkush.
“Pro Football Weekly has been the bible, the voice, of the pro football fan for the last 50 years,” said Hampton, who helped guide the Bears to a Super Bowl championship in 1985. “When they decided to come together and elect an all-time team, obviously I was over the moon. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
The event included a silent auction, which benefited Special Olympics, featuring sports memorabilia and trips.
The newest Hall of Fame member on the panel, Urlacher, said he attended “first and foremost” to benefit Special Olympics.
The eight-time Pro Bowl selection led the Bears to Super Bowl XLI in 2006. He is fresh off his Hall of Fame induction last month.
“Since it’s been over, it’s been great,” Urlacher said of the Hall of Fame honors. “I’m just kind of settling into my daily routine and winding back down a little bit. It was such a whirlwind leading up to it and the week of. ... Fifty years of football celebrating some of the best players of all time. It’s pretty cool to be around that.”
Football fans of all teams came together to celebrate the sport. Jerseys of all colors were represented in the crowd – Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers and, of course, plenty of Bears navy blue and orange.
“You come to a city like Chicago, that’s a rich football tradition,” said Munoz, an 11-time Pro Bowl selection with the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1980s and early ’90s. “And a magazine like Pro Football Weekly, it’s an honor, it’s a thrill, and it’s one of those things you want to be a part of.”
It has been more than 25 years since Taylor, Greene, Hampton, Munoz and White played, and Munoz noted that the game certainly has changed in some ways, and in many ways remains the same.
“From the media coverage to social media to the money they’re making,” Munoz said. “The athletes are bigger, faster, stronger, but again, it hasn’t changed. To win games, you’ve still got to throw the ball, run the ball, tackle. The teams that win still do the basic fundamentals the best. I don’t think that will ever change.”
Hampton said he believes all the legends onstage “played the game to win.” That’s what separated great players from good players.
Each of the legends said he enjoys opportunities to get together with other football stars and share stories. Hampton especially was proud that the event took place near Chicago, not far from Soldier Field, where he played for so many years.
“To have this event right here in the suburbs of Chicago is a great thing,” Hampton said. “To bring in people like Randy White, Lawrence Taylor, Anthony Munoz, ‘Mean’ Joe Greene, those are iconic names. And to be on the stage at the same time as them is just a great thing.”