Since they became Bears teammates in 1981, Dan Hampton and Steve McMichael have spent countless hours side-by-side, in good times and bad.
They wreaked havoc together on the field—bringing passion and ferocity to some of the best defensive lines in NFL history—as well as off, whether they were smoking cigars, telling off-color jokes or playing in the Chicago 6 band together.
Sadly, the moments they've shared in recent months have all been at McMichael's suburban Chicago home, where the former Bears star is confined to his bed, unable to move or talk, his once fiercely strong body ravaged by ALS.
McMichael was diagnosed with the disease in April 2021. Although he has steadily declined, his will to live has been strengthened by the possibility that he could be part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 2024.
McMichael moved one step closer July 27 when he remained one of 12 Senior semifinalists after the list was trimmed down from 31. On Aug. 22, the Senior Committee will choose up to three Senior finalists. The Hall of Fame Selection Committee will then vote on those finalists in January, with a minimum 80 percent of the vote required to be elected.
Hampton, who was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2002, is hoping beyond hope that McMichael makes the cut, which would enable busts of the two close friends and former teammates to remain together in Canton for eternity.
"I think he's imminently qualified," Hampton said Sunday while attending the Bears' Family Fest practice at Soldier Field. "There is a statistical trajectory that gets you in and there is also a valuation groundswell, and a bunch of guys have told me in their minds that Steve fits the bill on both sides."
McMichael played 13 seasons with the Bears from 1981-93, appearing in a franchise-record 191 straight games and compiling 92.5 sacks, the second most in team history behind Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent's 124.5.
McMichael was a two-time first-team All-Pro, a three-time second-team All-Pro and a two-time Pro Bowler. Hampton points out that McMichael recorded at least 8.0 sacks in seven seasons—a feat that Hampton accomplished six times.
"What that tells you is not only was he wonderfully accomplished at rushing the passer," Hampton said, "but he did it year after year after year after year. I didn't do that."
As key contributors on a 1985 Bears defense that's widely considered the best in NFL history, Hampton and McMichael helped lead the franchise to its first Super Bowl championship. The two were warriors on the field, playing through intense pain and debilitating injuries and enduring almost too many surgeries to count.
Nothing they experienced in the NFL, however, prepared them for the horrible disease that McMichael is suffering from. Last Thursday night he was admitted to a hospital while unconscious due to sepsis and pneumonia.
The latest update from McMichael's publicist Monday indicated that his health continues to improve. He no longer has sepsis and remains on IV antibiotics for pneumonia. He's expected to be released from the hospital and return home in the coming days.
Hampton, no doubt, was happy to hear that news.
"He's kind of been my wingman," Hampton said. "It's hard to bring to words my anguish about his plight. This ALS is beyond catastrophic—not only in his personal well-being but the family and all these different aspects of it. It's just been awful.
"The one thing I can tell you is through it all, he has been like John Wayne: Never say die. It's amazing to see his resiliency."
One of five '85 Bears players enshrined in the Hall of Fame, Hampton would be ecstatic if McMichael becomes the sixth. The others are Dent, Mike Singletary, Walter Payton and Jimbo Covert.
"We had a lot of great players," Hampton said. "But guess what? Steve McMichael was a special player as well. In my mind, [he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame]. Will it happen? I don't know. But we can all cross our fingers and say a little prayer."