Don Wachter paced the floor of his Atlanta hotel room Friday morning, nervously awaiting a knock on his door from Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker.
A diehard Bears fan who has owned season tickets for the last 34 seasons, Wachter has been known as "Bearman" since 1996 when he began to attend games with his face painted navy and orange and wearing a real bear's head, fake fur and a Doug Plank jersey.
A finalist for the brand-new Ford Hall of Fans at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Wachter did in fact get the knock from Baker the Plainfield resident was so eagerly waiting for.
"I didn't really sleep well last night in anticipation, waking up every half hour or whatever," Wachter said. "I was pacing the floor [Friday morning] just jittery and nervous. When I heard the knock, it was relief. When I opened the door and saw [Baker], it was just elation. I yelled, 'Yes!' Then I came out and hugged him and growled at him."
Wachter was nominated for the Ford Hall of Fans in October and was selected as one of six finalists in December. He was informed that he was a finalist by none other than Bears Hall of Fame middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who visited Wachter's home to deliver the news.
When the list was pared down from six to three, Wachter earned a trip to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta along with super fans from the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers. The three, who will attend Sunday's game between the Patriots and Rams, were told that only one of them would be inducted into the Ford Hall of Fans. But the decision was ultimately made to enshrine all three as part of the inaugural class of fans during Hall of Fame weekend in August.
"This is such an honor, it's hard to describe," Wachter said. "This is the highest achievement I've gotten in my life, even a higher honor than when I got my Bachelor's degree and Master's degree. This is a passion. I've been a Bears fan for 42 years and 'Bearman' for 22 years.
"It's also a way that I'm representing Bear nation and all the diehard Bears fans across the country. Getting this is the pinnacle. It's similar to the players getting the call that they're in the Hall of Fame. As a fan, I'm among the first to be in. This is such a high honor because there are only three of us that are going in."