Steve McMichael, a defensive anchor for the Chicago Bears’ 1985 Super Bowl champions who later competed as a professional wrestler, revealed he has been diagnosed with ALS.
McMichael, 63, is paralyzed from the shoulders down as he battles amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The disease, named for the New York Yankees’ Hall of Fame first baseman, affects the nervous system, weakens muscles and impacts physical movements.
“Mongo,” who played 15 seasons in the NFL, mostly with the Chicago Bears, was diagnosed with ALS slightly more than three months ago and decided to publicize his condition on Friday, the Chicago Tribune reported.
McMichael, who weighed 270 pounds during his playing days, now weighs closer to 200 pounds, the newspaper reported.
His wife has to feed him and help him use the bathroom, and she also gives him sponge baths, according to the Tribune.
“I don’t want to say that you have favorites, but I would have to say that Steve McMichael was always one of my favorites,” former Bears coach Mike Ditka told the Sun-Times. “There was no quit in the guy. He gave you what he had. Whether it was enough or not, it didn’t matter. You were going to get his best effort.
“I love him to death.”
After retiring from the NFL, McMichael wrestled professionally under his nickname, “Mongo.” He debuted at WrestleMania 11 in 1995, when he appeared ringside in support of former NFL star Lawrence Taylor in his main event match against Bam Bam Bigelow, AL.com reported. McMichael switched to WCW later that year, serving as a color commentator on “WCW Monday Nitro” with Bobby Heenan, the website reported.
“I promise you,” McMichael told the Tribune, “this epitaph that I’m going to have on me now? This ain’t ever how I envisioned this was going to end.”
Former teammate Dan Hampton has visited McMichael two or three times per month since January, the Sun-Times reported. Two weeks ago, he brought fellow Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent with him.
“What do you say? What do you do? How do you respond?” Hampton told the newspaper. “It’s like a plane crash. You don’t know what’s up. You have to start making contingency plans.
“I admire him so much. He and his wife’s attitude has been just spectacular. If something like that happens to me or most people, you become bitter,” Hampton said. “Moribund. To his credit, his attitude has been exemplary. The whole thing is like a bad dream.”
McMichael, a five-time All-Pro, was drafted in the third round by the New England Patriots in 1980. He made his mark in Chicago, where he started 191 consecutive games and starred on defense from 1981 to 1993. He is second in franchise history with 92.5 sacks.
McMichael said he wanted to publicize his condition because “I want everybody to realize why they’re no longer going to see me around.”
Despite his diagnosis, McMichael has kept his sense of humor.
“I thought I was ready for anything,” McMichael told the Tribune. “But man, this will sneak up on you like a cheap-shotting Green Bay Packer.”
Cox Media Group