GRIFFITH | "You look like you can still play," said East Chicago resident John Castillo, who marveled at the sight of a still lean and athletic-cut Otis Wilson, who made a Jan. 20 appearance at Bridges' Scoreboard Restaurant and Sports Bar.
"I don't know about that," said the former star linebacker, who was one of the key and outspoken catalysts for the Super Bowl XX champion Bears. "The kids today are a little too fast for me."
Perhaps it's a perceived thinner skin they're carrying that aids their flight.
"This is a whole different generation of players from when I played, and the 'old school' ways just don't work any more," Wilson said when asked about why his former team continues to avoid fire-and-brimstone types like Mike Ditka whenever filling head coaching vacancies.
"Look what happened to Mike Singletary with the 49ers," Wilson said while referencing San Francisco's comeback surge against the Atlanta Falcons during the NFC Championship, which was in progress on multiple TV screens at the restaurant/bar. "He tried to bring in all that there, and he ended up getting fired. You can't coach today's players in the same ways we were coached."
This was Wilson's second appearance at Bridges' -- the first came circa the Bears' last championship season more than a quarter of a century ago. The Bears' only other Super Bowl appearance was in 2007 (2006 season). Now with incoming head coach Marc Trestman and a clean slate of new assistants, it's back to square one for the Bears.
"They gave Lovie (Smith) nine years to get it done, and he managed to get them to the NFC Championship game (twice) and the Super Bowl," Wilson said. "But since then, his teams have seemed to always fade out at the end.
"It was time for a change."
Smith's tenure with the Bears was actually longer that Wilson's, who played eight seasons in Chicago, the final during the strike-replacement-player 1987 season when he suffered a career-shortening knee injury. Known for his relentless pursuit, QB-addling blitzes and fierce tackling, Wilson was a Pro-Bowler who helped the Bears set an NFL record in total sacks (72) the season before they went to the Super Bowl -- the mark still stands.
Though he will likely not follow several of his Super Bowl champion teammates into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Wilson has garnered accolades from football's most reverent figures.
He was named to John Madden's All-Century Team, and in his autobiography "My Life and Times," Bears Hall of Fame runnng back Gale Sayers lists Wilson on his all-time Bears team along side fellow linebackers Dick Butkus and Wilbur Marshall.
One thing is for sure, "Mama's Boy Otis" rapped the most street-cred-resounding verse of the prescient hit single "Super Bowl Shuffle."
The Brooklyn native and Louisville All-American still calls Chicago home, where he remains active with his not-for-profit "Otis Wilson Charitable Association," which focuses -- among other things -- on literacy, fitness and proper fitness for youths.
"Fitness and education ... you've got to feed the body and the mind," said Wilson, who apparently hasn't lost his singing voice.