Former Chicago Bears great Steve McMichael is battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, he revealed in an interview with the Chicago Tribune.
His diagnosis was confirmed in January, and he said he’s disclosing his battle now to explain why he’s withdrawing from the public eye.
After his playing career ended in 1994, McMichael remained a prominent figure, becoming a pro wrestler, making appearances with the 1985 Super Bowl-winning team, analyzing the Bears on radio and performing with the band, The Chicago Six.
“I want everybody to realize why they’re no longer going to see me around,” McMichael, 63, told the newspaper.
McMichael was drafted by the New England Patriots in the third round in 1980 and released after playing six games. The Bears picked him up because of an injury to defensive lineman Brad Shearer, and McMichael wound up playing 191 games for the Bears. He became a salary cap victim and was released after 13 years, playing his final season with the Green Bay Packers in 1994.
The Bears inducted him into their Ring of Honor in 2009. In all, McMichael had 95.0 career sacks. He teamed with Dan Hampton to form a formidable bookend at defensive end, totaling 41.5 sacks from 1984-88.
He now spends much of his time in a high-tech wheelchair and has dropped about 60 pounds. He has lost the ability to lift both arms, and both legs have weakened significantly.
“They call it Lou Gehrig’s disease. But I didn’t know that was a metaphor,” McMichael said. “Because it’s going to run the bases on you.”
Hampton was the leader of The Chicago Six band and offered McMichael a spot as guitarist and vocalist in 2013. The group last performed at a park in September.
“It’s hard to believe that last show is the last time Steve will ever sing with us,” Hampton told the Tribune. “We’re heartsick about this.”
A number of former NFL players have revealed an ALS diagnosis, including former New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason. Dwight Clark, famed for “The Catch” with the San Francisco 49ers, died of the affliction in 2018 at age 61.
–Field Level Media
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