It took me about 10 seconds to realize how much Tom Thayer loves Joliet.
Thayer – a member of the 1985-86 Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears team who is the commentator on WBBM for Chicago Bears broadcasts and contributes to the Steve Dahl podcast – visited The Herald-News on Thursday. I had the opportunity to chat with him for about a half hour.
Thayer is a Joliet boy through and through. He was born here, went to Cathedral of St. Raymond Catholic School, then Joliet Catholic for high school. Growing up, he said, his dream was to play football under the lights at Joliet Memorial Stadium.
“The great thing about Joliet was, it created aspirations and dreams that were as lofty as any in the world,” he told me.
Play football he did – and not just at Joliet Memorial Stadium. He went on to play for Notre Dame in college – part of the reason he chose to go there was because it was so close to home – then for the Bears and the Miami Dolphins.
He said it’s always a proud moment when he can represent Joliet – such as when his name and hometown were announced at the Super Bowl. Compliments he’s received, he said, often are about his strong, positive work ethic. That comes from being from Joliet, he said, a place that values a hard day’s work.
I’ve met a few athletes and celebrities in my career as a journalist, and none have been, at first meeting, as easy-going or modest as Thayer was. The man still cuts his parents’ lawn – the same lawn he’s been cutting for about 50 years.
“I don’t know what Zen is, but it is a Zen-like thing,” he said. “You are back to the same footprints that you walked in when you were 8 years old pushing a lawnmower, and 10 and 12. It’s really a great experience.”
That struck a chord with me – as well as a memory – of cutting the lawn at my parents’ house. As I remember it, when I was maybe 8 or 10, my two older brothers and I decided to ask our parents for an allowance for doing chores around the house. My dad listened to us, then said something along the lines of, “You live in my house, eat my food and wear clothes I pay for. The least you can do is cut my lawn.”
As a child, I resented that statement, and probably muttered some unprintable words as I pushed the lawnmower around the yard. As an adult, I’m thankful I had parents who taught me to be thankful for the blessings we had, to show appreciation for those who bestowed such gifts, and value of a hard day’s work. If he ever asked, I’d cut my dad’s lawn in a heartbeat. Maybe I should do it some day without being asked.
In listening to Thayer describe the Joliet he so loves, it’s evident I’ve found a new place that embodies those same values. That makes me feel a little more at home than I have in the past year or so – and eager to move here and really immerse myself in this community.
Thayer has graciously agreed to help Shaw Media with some promotional efforts as we continue to acquaint ourselves with and become involved in the community. We couldn’t be happier to have someone who wholeheartedly loves this community as our partner.
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• Kate Schott is editor of The Herald-News and the Morris Daily Herald. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 815-280-4119.
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