Mike Tomczak was the kid curiously watching from under the tent flap as ringleader Mike Ditka kept the circus turnstiles whirling like helicopter blades.
Ditka's Bears were the NFL's most feared predators in 1985, chewing up the competition.
They had accepted Tomczak, the rookie, and occasionally he was allowed to play among them.
"It was a miracle ride for me," the T.F. North grad and former Ohio State star said.
This season marks the 25th anniversary of the Bears' Super Bowl XX championship run as one of the most dominating teams in league history.
"I truly believe I had a large part in helping our team out," Tomczak said. "I ran our scout team offense against our No. 1 defense, and we dominated every quarterback we went against.
"Only 50 percent of the quarterbacks who started against us that year finished the game. We either knocked them out or they got pulled. That's an incredible stat."
Jim McMahon and Steve Fuller were 1-2 on the depth chart. Tomczak was No. 3 and played for Chicago through 1990, eventually becoming a starter.
You can't talk about the '85 Bears without the word "characters" being used, although T-Zak prefers using a different label.
"Caricatures," he said. "Starting with our management, our ownership, all the way down to the groundskeeper -- Ken Brock. Even he was a character.
"It was an interesting cast and look what they've become. Ditka. McMahon. Singletary. McMichael. William Perry ... they're all still caricatures."
Tomczak missed Ditka's Aug. 27 celebrity golf outing in Chicago featuring members of the '85 squad, but he had a good excuse. He's now coaching special teams and quarterbacks at Division II Ohio Dominican University near Columbus, the school current Valparaiso University coach Dale Carlson left in January.
Tomczak continually gets the same question over and over. Will the Bears ever win another title?
"Hopefully, not in my lifetime because my stories will be greater and more meaningful then," Tomczak chuckled.
Today's players, including the current Bears, have many personal agendas that make them indifferent toward the '85 team and its accomplishments.
"We were young. We were confident. We were fierce. We were relentless -- and we were 'touchable,'" Tomczak said. "We weren't afraid to open up our personal space.
"Nowadays, these guys are a little more standoffish and don't want to leave the house because they're either making too much money and/or don't want to invest back into the community."
That never stopped the kid from Calumet City whose dad, Ron, coached at T.F. North and always stressed fundamentals and work ethic to his players.
Ron passed away in 2007 at age 69. Thankfully, he was able to follow Mike's entire pro career and was there for Super Bowl XX as his son played the fourth quarter of the Bears' 46-10 blowout of New England.
"My dad had a special way of getting into your soul; a way of pushing all the right buttons," Mike said. "He was the complete package."
In 16 NFL seasons, Tomczak played for the Bears, Packers, Browns, Steelers and Lions. He threw for more than 16,000 yards and 87 touchdowns.
But having experienced the wondrous sights and sounds of '85 from under the tent flap will stay with him like a birthmark.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.