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Ex-Bear finally shuffles to White House

By ROB SHAW | The Tampa Tribune

Finally, after more than 25 years, the Chicago Bears are getting their White House visit.

The team, which shuffled its way through the 1985 season and then vanquished the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX on Jan. 26, 1986, will be honored by President Obama today.

The Bears were supposed to meet with President Ronald Reagan after the big win more than a quarter-century ago, but the space shuttle Challenger blew up two days after the Super Bowl. The visit was canceled as the nation mourned, and it never was rescheduled.

Until, that is, Obama — himself a Bears fan from Chicago — extended an invitation to coaches and players to come to the White House to be honored.

Tyrone Keys, who played defense for the Bears on that Super Bowl team, flew out of Tampa on Thursday for the event.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Keys, who lives in Tampa and leads All Sports Community Service, an organization that mentors local youngsters. "We had a lot of fun off the field. And we were real gladiators on the field."

The team had a "punky QB" in quarterback Jim McMahon.

It had a defensive lineman turned running back who was nicknamed for a kitchen appliance: William "Refrigerator" Perry.

It had a head coach — Mike Ditka — whose ego clashed with that of fiery defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan.

Oh, and it had one of the greatest running backs of all time — "Sweetness," Walter Payton.

After mostly waltzing to 12-0 in 1985, the team stumbled on "Monday Night Football" and lost to the Miami Dolphins, 38-24, at the Orange Bowl.

The Bears' reaction to adversity? They responded by flying back to Chicago and dancing and singing their way through the "Super Bowl Shuffle," a music video recorded after the loss that set their sights on the sport's biggest game.

The Bears never lost again in the regular season or playoffs.

Keys was one of the players who participated in the video — donning sunglasses as he danced and sang at the keyboard.

"I was moving a little bit," he said when asked if he enjoyed singing or dancing more. "It was a lot of fun. We didn't have any idea how it would come off.

"Once we lost to the Dolphins, everybody was doubting us. We just put the pressure back on ourselves."

The best thing about the video and song, he said, is that proceeds were donated to charity.

The song hit No. 41 on the Billboard chart and was nominated for a Grammy.

The Bears made sweet music on and off the field — even at practice.

"What made it fun is we had so many battles at practice," Keys said. "Every day was a hitting day. Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan were very competitive. We had hard-nosed practices every day."

In games, the intensity level soared even more.

"It was a lot of fun because we were so dominant where we dictated the game," Keys said.

The Super Bowl win came in Keys' last year with the Bears. He played for the Bucs for two years after that, before heading to San Diego for the last year of his career.

It will be his second visit to the White House. Previously he was there to meet with President George W. Bush to be honored for his work with youth in Tampa.

"Any time you get a chance to go to the White House, it's an honor, regardless of who is in the office," Keys said. "It's the highest office in the land."

Keys is looking forward to seeing the members of the 1985 Bears again. There was a similar gathering in January in Chicago to mark the 25th anniversary of the Super Bowl win.

He hopes that the extra 25 years between the title and the visit to the White House has allowed players the chance to mature.

"Maybe they will know how to behave now," he said with a chuckle.