With their first-round pick in the 1997 NFL Draft, the Bears selected fullback Al Bundy of Polk High School in Chicago.
Well, at least that's what Hollywood wanted you to believe. On an episode of the Fox sitcom "Married … With Children" that aired 25 years ago this week, the fictional women's shoe salesman dreams that he sells his soul to the devil to be drafted by the Bears and take them to the Super Bowl.
The episode, entitled "Damn Bundys," featured three actual Bears players portraying themselves: quarterback Erik Kramer, running back Raymont Harris and receiver Curtis Conway. The trio traveled to Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City, Calif., to film the show in February 1997.
"I was totally in awe," Harris recalled recently. "I was 26 and I had never been to California or Hollywood before. I was a fan of 'Married … With Children,' but to see the actors in real life was very eye-opening."
Al Bundy was played by actor Ed O'Neill, who donned a No. 33 Bears jersey in the episode. O'Neill starred in two of the longest-running sitcoms in TV history, first on "Married … With Children" for 11 seasons from 1987-97 and later another 11 years as Jay Pritchett on ABC's "Modern Family" from 2009-20.
The rest of the Bundy family consisted of Al's wife Peggy (Katey Sagal), daughter Kelly (Christina Applegate) and son Bud (David Faustino).
O'Neill grew up in Ohio playing football. A defensive lineman, he earned a scholarship to Ohio University and later transferred to Youngstown State. In 1969, he signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent. But after competing with "Mean Joe" Greene and L.C. Greenwood in training camp, O'Neill was released. He then returned to Youngstown State and joined the theater program.
Harris, who was born and raised in Lorain, Ohio, bonded with O'Neill on set over their football backgrounds and Ohio roots.
"He was definitely the most personable [of all the actors]," Harris said. "The character Al Bundy is a goofball, but Ed was a regular guy, serious and smart."
Kramer, who once lived down the street from Sony Studios in Culver City, also enjoyed interacting with O'Neill, discovering they had both spent spring breaks during college in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
"That's probably one of the funniest human beings I've ever met," Kramer said recently. "Ed was the most personable [on set]. He was a down-to-earth guy."
In the "Damn Bundys" episode, Al joins the Bears and enjoys immediate success. A newspaper headline proclaims, "World's Oldest Rookie Scores 4 TDs in Season Opener." As Bundy leads the Bears to the Super Bowl, he is named Time Magazine's "Man of the Year" and People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive."
The devil in the episode was played by Robert Englund, who is better known for portraying Freddy Krueger in the "A Nightmare on Elm Street" movies.
The Bears players only had a few lines, with Harris telling Bundy: "You're still old and flabby and you smell like Ben-Gay."
To this day, when the "Damn Bundys" episode airs, Kramer, Harris and Conway still receive residual checks—and texts from amused friends and relatives.
"The residual checks used to be significantly bigger, but now they're like 18 cents or 38 cents," Harris said. "It's one of those shows that's always shown on reruns. To this day, someone will snap a still shot or send me a video [clip]. I would say it happens about 10 times a year."