Did you see the first NFL game of the season? It was a classic NFC North division matchup… Chicago v Green Bay.
This week I’d like to share a story about one of those teams, a story with ties to a dear friend, Chris Neck. Chris is an award winning business professor at Arizona State University. The main character in the story is Chris Neck’s dad, Tommy Neck.
But first let’s have some fun. See if you know the answers to these NFL trivia questions:
1. Who was affectionately called Papa Bear?
2. What NFL players wear “GSH” on their sleeves, and have for 35 years?
3. What NFL stadium just had two 12 ft 3,000 pound statues erected in front?
4. Who are the NFL legends honored by those statues?
5. Last Thursday was the start of which NFL season?
(Answers at the bottom)
Great football teams run like precision machines, as do great businesses. The Chicago Bears were a precision machine from 1923-1963. During that 40 years they were owned and coached by the legendary George Halas (who also founded the team).
Coach Halas was quite the character, known for wearing a suit, tie and fedora while yelling out plays from the sideline. This was long before quarterbacks had helmet receivers. Halas also invented Chicago Bears Time.
Tommy Neck was a cornerback for the Chicago Bears in the 1960s, the team’s invincible years. Imagine how excited he was as a rookie reporting to his first NFL practice in 1962.
Practice started at 2pm, and rookie Neck arrived at 1:55pm. But to his astonishment, the field was full of players, already blocking, tackling and catching passes.
When Coach Halas saw the rookie he was furious, grabbing him by the jersey and scolding him for being late. Neck complained, “Coach, the schedule said practice starts at 2pm.”
“When you play for Chicago, you are on Bears time.” Halas bellowed. “When practice starts at 2, you’re there at 1:40. When it starts at 6, you’re there at 5:40. Got it Neck?”
“Yes sir.” Neck quickly replied.
But Coach Halas wasn’t finished. “Get your butt out there. Don’t walk. Don’t stop. Stand still for one second during practice and I’ll cut you off the team today! I want you to run this entire day so you’ll NEVER forget.”
Tommy never forgot and was never late again, usually arriving 30 minutes early.
In later years, he told his son Chris that this lesson stuck with him (and helped him) for the rest of his life.
Want to start from behind? Be on time.
Want an advantage? Be first in line.
NFL Trivia Answers
• Coach George Halas was known as “Papa Bear” and “Mr Everything” because he was a player, coach, team founder, owner, even filling in as team ticket salesman in the team’s early years. • Chicago Bears players have worn “GSH” (George Stanley Halas) on their sleeves since Halas passed away in 1983. • Bronze statues of Walter Payton and George Halas were erected in front of the Bears’ home field, Soldier Stadium in Chicago, just before last week’s NFL season kickoff game. • Last Thursday’s Green Bay v Chicago game was the start of the 100th NFL season.
“If you’re early, you’re on time.
If you’re on time, you’re late.”
– Lik Hock Yap Ivan