KENOSHA, Wis. – Fittingly, Bruce Springsteen's "Glory Days" song blared from the loudspeakers as more than 30 former Bears players gathered to take a picture Monday at the annual Mercedes-Benz Chicago Bears Alumni Golf Outing.
The event, held at The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wis., featured Bears players from as far back as the 1970s reminiscing, reacquainting themselves with former teammates and sharing old stories.
"It's like family; even if you don't see people for a while, you just pick up right where you left off with them," said Jay Hilgenberg, a seven-time Pro Bowl center in 11 seasons with the Bears from 1981-91. "It's a lot of fun. We all have the shared experience of what we went through, the fun times, and you just kind of relive them."
Hilgenberg helped found and develop The Club at Strawberry Creek, which is located 28 miles north of Halas Hall. He was one of six members of the 1985 Super Bowl XX championship team at Monday's event, joining Otis Wilson, Mike Hartenstine, Henry Waechter, Tom Andrews and Kurt Becker.
Other former Bears in attendance were Ted Albrecht, Jim Althoff, Johan Asiata, Jerry Azumah, Fabien Bownes, Rashied Davis, Steve Edwards, Curtis Enis, Jerry Fontenot, Brian Glasgow, Roland Harper, Bruce Herron, Jon Hoke, Kurt Kittner, Brandon McGowan, R.W. McQuarters, Ahmad Merritt, Brent Novoselsky, Jim Osborne, Adrian Peterson, Quintin Smith, Bradley Sowell, James Thornton, Charles Wade, James "Big Cat" Williams and Eric Wright.
"It's an opportunity to come back and see guys that you haven't seen in forever," said Williams, a Pro Bowl tackle who spent his entire NFL career with the Bears from 1991-2002.
The Bears were represented by President and CEO Kevin Warren, general manager Ryan Poles, assistant general manager Ian Cunningham, coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy.
"Our alumni are the bedrock and the foundation of the Chicago Bears," Warren said. "This happens to be a golf event. It could have been any other event and I would have been here just as a way to say thank you to the alumni who've come here and let them know how much we support and appreciate them."
During lunch, Warren walked around a room full of former Bears and humbly introduced himself table-by-table.
"This is the reason why our fans love the Bears so much," Warren said. "It's for these men here today who sacrificed so much of their lives to represent the Chicago Bears in a professional manner. So, it's just a small way for me to say thank you."
Poles, who played in a foursome that included Hilgenberg and Cunningham, values the bonds he's building with former players.
"This organization has great history, and to see a lot of the players that were part of some of those great teams over the years, it's a lot of fun to spend some time with them and share different stories," Poles said. "The other thing that's really cool is just to see and hear the amount of support that these guys have in what we're trying to do and the direction that our team's going right now, so it's a blast."
The Bears have invited all of their former players to Halas Hall Tuesday to watch minicamp practice and eat lunch.
"Those relationships are important," Poles said. "A lot of these guys who played for the Bears put a lot of time into making [the organization] into what it is today, so it's definitely important to show that support just like they're showing support back."
Shortly after being hired as coach in 2022, Eberflus reached out to several former Bears to thank them for their contributions as players and to invite them to Halas Hall to share their experiences with the current team.
"Really it goes back to the 'HITS' principle," Eberflus said. "We want guys that love football, that hustle, that have great intensity, that love this game, and these guys do. The more we can have these guys around in our facility … we want that. We encourage that because these guys love football. We want to bring them around as much as we can so our guys can glean information from these guys."
The former Bears clearly appreciate the support they're receiving from the organization.
"I think it really shows how this new [regime] is committed to the guys from the past and respect players from the past," Hilgenberg said.
Former Bears players hit the links along with Bears coaching staff and front office executives at The Club at Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wis. on Monday for the club's annual alumni golf outing.