Mitch Krenk was working another home building project for his company in Nebraska City.
His cell phone rang.
“Out of the blue, Henry Waechter calls me from Grand Island and wants to talk about the 1985 Bears,” Krenk said Monday. “We talked for an hour or so. There was a lot to remember.”
Former Nebraska standouts, Krenk and Waechter were teammates on the Super Bowl XX championship team from Chicago — arguably the best team in NFL history.
Walter Payton. Jim McMahon. The Fridge. Danimal Hampton. Mike Singletary. Willie Gault. The “46” defense and Super Bowl Shuffle.
Krenk was a backup tight end and special-teams player. Waechter was a backup defensive end. He mashed New England quarterback Steve Grogan in the end zone to give the Bears a safety in their 46-10 victory in New Orleans.
“We get together with the old Bears every once in a while,” Krenk said. “That was such an incredible team, such a special group of people and personalities.”
Waechter chimed in, “The personalities, so different from this year. The cast of characters was colorful, but we were the closest, most cohesive team I’ve ever been around,” Waechter said.
This year’s Bears are underdogs to the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday’s Super Bowl.
Waechter and Krenk believe the Bears have a chance.
“I wear my Super Bowl ring and I’ll probably dig out my Super Bowl XX hat on Sunday,” said Waechter, who recently started Waechter Sales and Marketing (farm equipment sales) in Grand Island.
For Krenk, “I’ll be around some family. I’ll wear my ring, some Bears stuff and watch at home. I had a chance to buy tickets, but HDTV and the recliner at home is a pretty good deal.”
But both former Huskers will be cheering for the Bears almost as hard as they cheer on Nebraska.
“This year’s Bears have a great defense at times and a good offense at times but they seem to win most of the time,” said Waechter, who also played for the (Baltimore) Colts for a year. “Like Mitch, I’m a Bears fan. They have a big piece of my heart. Of course, I’ll always be a Husker.”
Waechter was an junior college all-American at Waldorf Junior College in Iowa. He came to Nebraska and was part of the impressive Husker defenses in 1980 and 1981. He signed with the Bears and played in Chicago for four years.
“I’ll always be a Bear fan,” he said.
Krenk also cheers for the Bears. “They really do seem to care about the former players,” he said. “There are get-togethers for the 1985 Bears and everybody is treated the same. I remember one reunion when Walter Payton put his arms around my son, Nick, and it’s a memory that will last with our family forever.”
Nick Krenk earned some notoriety of his own last November when, as team manager, he got to suit up and play for the Nebraska basketball team against UNO. He made the travel squad to games in Hawaii and Miami.
“My son and I have similar stories,” Mitch Krenk said. “Neither one of us was good enough to be recruited out of high school. But he got to play for Nebraska. I walked on at Nebraska, got to play, and eventually got to play for the Bears.”
Krenk actually had no college football prospects before he went to the South Stadium offices and asked if he could see Tom Osborne. “I asked if I could walk on,” Krenk said. “Of course, his first thing was to ask how my grades were. I said ‘fine.’”
Krenk, who as a Husker was coached by former NU assistant Gene Huey, now with the Colts, was most famous for his catch of the “bounceroosky” pass from Irving Fryar in the 1982 victory against Oklahoma.
The Bears awarded the game ball to Krenk for his two catches and special-teams work in a victory against Minnesota in 1984.
“Henry and I agreed, you play four years of high school, four or five years in college, some in the pros and you don’t miss the practices and the games,” Krenk said.
“But you do miss the locker rooms, the friendships. And the memories, wow, what a bunch of memories.”
Reach Ken Hambleton at 473-7313 or firstname.lastname@example.org.