CHICAGO (AP) - Family and friends remembered former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson as a generous man whose caring nature belied his reputation as a ferocious hitter on the 1985 Chicago Bears championship team.
They attended a packed memorial for Duerson at a southside Chicago church on Saturday.
Duerson’s death rocked former teammates and coaches, who recently said he had seemed to be in good spirits after going through financial problems and a divorce the past few years. At a reunion of the 1985 Bears championship team a few months ago, he told them he was planning to get married again in April and seemed optimistic about his future.
His youngest son, Brock, gave one of several eulogies on Saturday, along with 1985 Bears teammate Otis Wilson and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
“My dad, Dave Duerson, was a kind and generous man who believed in helping others,” Brock said. “Who would ever think that a small-town boy from Muncie, Ind., would become such a success in sports, academics and business. I’m extremely proud to be a Duerson.”
The New York Times reported that Duerson had sent text messages to his family asking that his brain be examined for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease tied to depression, dementia and suicide.
His brain was donated to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine and was to undergo studies looking for any disease or abnormality but focused on CTE, which has been found in numerous athletes.
Brock Duerson said after the service that the family will start a charity to help athletes deal with mental illness. He said the family won’t get the results of the brain tests for three to six months.
Two years later, with Todd Bell sitting out the season in a contract dispute, he became a starter on one of the greatest defenses ever assembled.
“It was real joy to work with Dave,” Wilson said. “He couldn’t do anything halfway.”
With Hall of Famers Mike Singletary, Dan Hampton and Richard Dent, the Bears left a trail of battered opponents while shuffling all the way to the championship. Duerson did his part in the backfield with five interceptions and made the first of four straight Pro Bowls.
A year later, he picked off a career-high six passes while setting what was an NFL record for sacks by a defensive back with seven. That mark stood until 2005, when Arizona’s Adrian Wilson had eight.