Seeing 332-pound defensive tackle Akiem Hicks take a handoff and thunder into the end zone last Sunday against the Giants conjured up some unforgettable memories for Tom Thayer.
The former Bears guard and longtime radio analyst watched Hicks score from the 1-yard line from a broadcast booth high atop MetLife Stadium. Thayer was much closer to the action 33 years ago, however, when a different Bears defensive tackle was utilized in a similar manner.
Thayer was the starting right guard for the famed 1985 Super Bowl championship team that turned promising rookie run-stuffer William "Refrigerator" Perry into a virtually unstoppable short-yardage weapon.
It all started in the 1984 NFC Championship Game—before Perry or Thayer had even joined the Bears. The 49ers capped a 23-0 victory over the visiting Bears by employing guard Guy McIntyre in the backfield as a blocking back.
As the Bears prepared to return to San Francisco for a rematch in the sixth week of the 1985 season, coach Mike Ditka planned to put Perry in the backfield to gain a measure of revenge against 49ers counterpart Bill Walsh.
"The reasoning behind why Fridge was in the backfield was a lot more vindictively done than the creativeness of Matt Nagy," Thayer said. "When we were getting ready for Fridge being in the backfield, there was a lot on the line. We had to be winning the game and we had to be doing it convincingly."
The Bears did just that, racing to a 16-0 second-quarter lead. They were ahead 26-10 with 1:51 left in the game when Perry joined the offense on the field and carried on back-to-back plays, plowing into the line for a pair of 2-yard gains.
That, however, was just the beginning of Fridge mania. The 325-pound rookie became an overnight sensation eight days later in a Monday night win over the Packers. Perry not only scored on a 1-yard touchdown dive but served as a lead blocker on two short Walter Payton TD runs. On one, the human appliance knocked linebacker George Cumby halfway back to Evanston.
"It was one of the most powerful isolation blocks you'll ever see," Thayer said.
Perry scored three more offensive touchdowns in 1985. He went in motion and caught a 4-yard pass in a win in Green Bay and had a 1-yard TD drive in a victory over the Falcons at Soldier Field. Perry saved the best for last, though, plowing into the end zone for a 1-yard TD in the Bears' 46-10 victory over the Patriots in Super Bowl XX.
"I think that Ditka saw the quality of athlete William was," Thayer said. "You go to practice every day, you stand around and you start playing catch with somebody. You see two guys throwing a football. You say, ‘Wow, that guy's really good.' The Fridge was good at everything and Ditka saw that in him."
Thayer recalls that there was plenty of motivation to block when Perry carried the ball. "Fridge ran so hard," Thayer said. "If he had his head down while he was accepting the handoff and you didn't have any movement, you were going to get hit hard."
Thayer loved seeing Perry contribute on offense and was just as happy when Hicks dove into the end zone against the Giants.
"I think it's really healthy for a team," Thayer said. "It breaks the monotony of every-day football. You see the creativity. You see it start in meetings, and then you see the defensive players run across the field during practice and everybody is hooting and hollering. I think it's awesome. I would have loved to have caught a touchdown pass or have made a tackle-for-a-loss or a sack."