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Covert speaks from heart at induction ceremony

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Jimbo Covert delivered a heartfelt and humorous speech Saturday night during his enshrinement ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

The former star left tackle, who played his entire NFL career with the Bears from 1983-90, spent the majority of his allotted eight minutes on stage thanking relatives, former teammates and coaches and others who were instrumental in his success.

That long list began with Covert's official Hall of Fame presenter, former Bears teammate Matt Suhey, and included the entire Bears organization. Covert thanked the McCaskey family and team president/CEO Ted Phillips, singling out the late Ed McCaskey, the husband of Bears owner Virginia McCaskey.

Covert described Ed as "a remarkable person" who made Covert and his wife, Penny, "feel so welcome when we first got to Chicago." The former left tackle also shared a funny story about the legendary longtime Bears executive.

"When I got hurt in training camp in '88 and had to go back for surgery, Ed visited me every day in the hospital," Covert said. "He bought me lunch from Tufano's and he'd sit there with that Sportsman's Park racing form, chewing on that cigar and say, 'Jimmy, what do you think of this horse?'"

Virginia McCaskey attended Saturday night's ceremony, along with her son, Bears chairman George H. McCaskey, and George's wife, Barb.

Covert also thanked his former coach, Mike Ditka.

"When I first got to the Bears in 1983, we weren't a very good football team." Covert said. "In one of my first meetings, Mike Ditka said, 'I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that we're going to the Super Bowl; the bad news is half you guys won't be there when we do.'

"But he pushed us hard. I also believe he re-established the pride back into the Bears organization, that playing in the NFL is a privilege and not a right. And when you pull that Bears jersey over your pads and put on that helmet with that 'C' on the side, it means something special."

Covert expressed gratitude to former teammates on both sides of the ball.

"I had the opportunity to play with some incredible players, and when you talk about great Bears players it all starts with Walter Payton," Covert said.

"At practice, I played against some of the best defensive players of all time. Richard Dent and I squared off against each other every day. Sometimes we didn't like each other very much, but we made each other better. I just knew I wasn't going to face anybody on Sunday better than I faced during the week."

In addition to Dent, Covert mentioned two other members of the vaunted Bears defensive line he'd battle in practice: Hall of Famer Dan Hampton and Steve McMichael, who is suffering from ALS. Covert said he believes that McMichael deserves to be in the Hall of Fame as well and added "we are all thinking about you tonight, Steve, and wish you were here."

Covert also thanked his longtime Bears offensive line coach, the late Dick Stanfel, and discussed how fortunate he felt to be part of a five-man line that played together for seven years. His fellow linemates were left guard Mark Bortz, center Jay Hilgenberg, right guard Tom Thayer and right tackle Keith Van Horne.

"I can't think of four better guys that I would rather line up next to on any Sunday," Covert said.

Earlier in his speech, Covert thanked his parents, saying: "I always said I never had far to look for role models because they were right down the hall." He lauded his dad for his work ethic, called his mom his biggest fan and "the rock of our family," and described his wife, Penny, as the "glue that holds this all together." Covert also thanked his three children, as well as his brother and sister.

Covert reminisced about his childhood in Conway, Pa., and playing football at the University of Pittsburgh with quarterback Dan Marino and other greats.

Covert concluded his speech by thanking Bears fans, saying: "Your support has really been appreciated."

Covert entered the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2020 in a ceremony that was postponed one year due to COVID-19. He was among 10 senior candidates enshrined in Canton as part of a special 20-member centennial class commemorating the NFL's 100th season.

Covert was a two-time first-team All-Pro who helped the Bears win six division championships, one conference title and one Super Bowl. He was part of an offensive line that helped the Bears lead the NFL in rushing for four consecutive seasons from 1983-86.

With Covert's enshrinement, the Bears organization now boasts 30 Hall of Famers, the most of any NFL team.

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