Exclusive Interview: Bears Legend Otis Wilson Talks About Football In London, Player Safety and Much More

Exclusive Interview: Bears Legend Otis Wilson Talks About Football In London, Player Safety and Much More

The 1985 Chicago Bears go down in history as one of the best team's in the history of the NFL if not the best.

Their only loss that season came in Week 13 against the Miami Dolphins, the only team to finish undefeated (1972) in league history.

The ferocious Bears' defense coached by Buddy Ryan put his players in the right spots consistently in the 46-scheme.

The Mike Ditka led Bears were flat out hungry on defense, allowing only 198 points the entire season. Opposing offenses averaged just 12.4 points per game against them as they also led the league in turnover differential at plus-23.

Four shutouts by the Bears' defense which saw nine players get voted to the Pro Bowl that year.

The linebacking core was great led by middle linebacker Mike Singletary, strongside linebacker Otis Wilson and weakside linebacker Wilbur Marshall.

The three have been ranked as the fifth greatest linebacking corps in NFL history in NFL Top 10.

Wilson had a career year in 85' starting all 16 games, generating a career-high 10.5 sacks and three interceptions. He also had a defensive touchdown, two fumble recoveries and forced a safety.

He was the main blitzer on that team and often hurrying the quarterback, forcing him to make mistakes.

Wilson, 56, an eight-year starter for the Bears,  is tuned into football now more than ever. He finished his NFL career with 91 starts, 36 sacks, 10 interceptions, eight fumble recoveries and two defensive touchdowns.

On Monday, he made an appearance at Pulaski International School in Chicago alongside NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to talk about the league's renewed commitment to Fuel Up to Play 60.  I was able to chat with Otis for quite a while.

In 2011, I had the chance to talk to him about plenty of interesting stuff including going inside the 85' season with him. That interview can be viewed here. Here's today's portion.

Wilson will be out at halftime on Monday night honoring legend Mike Ditka as his No. 89 jersey will finally be retired by the Bears.

"I’m really happy for him. He’s [Ditka] had a great career and he’s finally getting awarded for it, he said. "Certainly long overdue, and well-deserved."

Wilson couldn't pin-point one player from that 85' team as the best, saying that the whole team was talented in all three phases. He stays in touch with almost of all the guys and a good number of them will be out there honoring "Da Coach."

Concussions have been a problem the last few years, but it seems like it's a huge focus this season. Wilson had a lot to say regarding this highly-debated topic.

"I think they’re doing what they set out to do," he said. "It’s hard when you have guys with the speed and size we see on the field today. You can only do so much, but the equipment and rules in place are really geared to keep players safe. You could have the toughest and strictest policy, but when size and speed meets a matching force, it’s inevitable that someone might get hurt at some point."

Like mentioned above, injuries have taken a toll on so many teams this season including the Bears. It is hard to provide an exact reason why this is happening so frequently this season.

"From what I’m seeing, there are rules in place that prevent athletes from practicing tackling when you know you will have those situations on Sunday," he said. "You can minimize risk and make it easier on the guys by teaching the right way to tackle."

First-year head coach Marc Trestman has brought a different mindset to the Bears side and that was known coming in. Considering Wilson played on such a great defensive team and he's been so accustomed to seeing the defensive side of the ball succeed over the years, I asked him what he thinks about the direction of the Bears.

"For the first time you have an offense so that puts the D into question," he said. "Now you have to make sure the D is working right, but what Trestman has to do is find that balance. With a lot of young players, you have to bring them along as fast as you can to get them playing their best."

Wilson follows the Bears as much as the super fan or die-hard fan does. He picked his most surprising up-and-coming Bear and favorite Bears rookie to watch.

"Alshon Jeffrey has really stepped up after his rookie season," he said. "His sophomore year has been phenomenal. On D, I like Bostic. He’s young and aggressive on the field."

A lot of young NFL players can't handle the pressures that come with the big contracts and it is really tough to watch the demises of their careers. Wilson thinks good advice is key for these young stars to succeed not only in the NFL, but in life.

"I guess, when you talk about business and finance, it’s the individual’s responsibility, but they need good advice from people close to them," he said. "They have to know how to evaluate who it is, whether it’s parents or an agent or friends, you need the right people in your circle."

Wilson would have no problem with the additions of possible teams in London and in Los Angeles, CA. The league already has 32 teams, but Goodell has made it clear he wants to expand it.

"In my eyes, the more the merrier," he said. "I see it as a chance to get more jobs, more opportunities for staff and young players. It’ll give fans more to watch, more built into the schedule. I think the additions will be fine."

Brett Favre talked recently in an interview about how relieved he was that he doesn't have a kid who will go through the pressures of not only being his son but playing football as well. Wilson talked about what it was like to watch his son Quincy follow in his foot steps as a running back for the Cincinnati Bengals (2004-07). Quincy is currently the Assistant Director of Football Operations for the West Virginia Mountaineers.

"I thought it was great, a great experience for Quincy, he said. "When he was a kid, I thought he wasn’t paying attention. You know, kids don’t listen to their dads, but he had a great career and he's really enjoying it. I think on one hand, kids are always trying to live up to their dads, but I told him to go out and have fun. Regardless what they say, maybe they’ll always mention us in the same breath, but it’s about you."

 

Wilson has his own charitable foundation which benefits lots of kids in the Chicago area and it does a great thing for everyone involved. It is called the Otis Wilson Charitable Association, go check it out here. It is a fit, wellness and literacy program.

"We have a bunch of activities for the kids: dance for girls, martial arts, cooking, reading. We’re there five days a week. Our goal is getting young kids to understand fitness, fit for life, and education. That’s what we’re doing this morning with Fuel Up to Play 60 as well. This program gives the right tools and equipment to live better. Giving kids information and knowledge to live better. Education, now it’s not just about in-school education, we have to move. The NFL and NDC (National Dairy Council) made a commitment five years ago, and they’ve just expanded it another five years. It’s great to see everybody is doing their part."

His involvement with Fuel Up to Play 60 is great for the kids and the NFL itself. Wilson had this to say about the event that took place on Monday morning.

"As I mentioned, Fuel Up To Play 60 is something that fits in with what I’m working on through my own foundation – getting kids moving and healthy. The key to fitness is eating right, fueling the body. If I knew then what I know now, I would have done things differently. I just went out and played for the love of the game, but you have to take care of yourself and fuel the body with the right things and keep your nutrition right so you can sustain yourself. The NFL and National Dairy Council came together to bring the best information for kids so they can live healthy and productive live and stay fit for life."

We'd like to give a big thanks to Otis and the entire foundation for setting the interview up. Make sure you check out his awesome site, here and go follow him on Twitter, @OtisWilson_55.

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