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The colorful five-foot poster I received from Clemson University before the 1985 NFL draft became the talk of our newsroom.

It featured a gap-toothed William Perry standing next to, of all things, a refrigerator.

The 6-foot-2 All-American nose tackle tipped the truck scale at 308 pounds, so teammates nicknamed him "Refrigerator" as a freshman because of his size and voracious appetite.

And he was a freakish athlete, too.

Clemson's media relations department listed Perry's noteworthy game accomplishments, then spiced it up with several off-the-field tidbits.

This kid could do a 360 dunk in basketball.

He did double flips off the diving board.

He was an excellent break dancer.

And this was my favorite anecdote  in high school, the 295-pound Perry once ran the 100-yard dash in 11 seconds at practice while competing against the running backs, wide receivers and defensive backs.

The rest is history, the beginning of which was all smiles and balloons for the gentle giant.

The Bears made Perry the 22nd overall pick in the draft. He played in Chicago from 1985 to 1993, won a ring in Super Bowl XX, made millions of dollars, and was loved by fans everywhere.

But Camelot soon developed a crack.

Financial troubles, failed marriages, and serious health problems plagued Perry after he left Chicago.

He now has diabetes, circulatory problems in both legs, difficulty hearing, and suffers the effects of Guillain-Barré syndrome, which struck him in 2008.

Published reports once had his weight ballooning to 450 after retiring from the game.

He weighed around 350 much of his Bears' career.

In 2009, Perry was near death after his weight dropped to an alarming 190 and he was hospitalized.

In 2011, he announced he was an alcoholic and entering rehab.

In 2015, Perry auctioned off his size 25 Super Bowl XX ring for $200,000 but published reports said he never saw the money.

A lengthy 2016 "Where Are They Now?" article in Sports Illustrated basically told his life story, the many ups and downs, and how he had been used as a "cash cow" by people he thought were his friends.

It was painful to read.

Later this month, William "The Refrigerator" Perry returns home, sort of, when he appears at Bridges' Scoreboard Restaurant in Griffith on Sept. 22 (1 to 5 p.m.) and 23 (2 to 6 p.m.)

"He's still in a wheelchair," said older brother Hollie Perry. "But he's coming around real good. He can walk a little bit but his foot still has to heal. He came through Chicago a few years ago for the Bears' (30-year) reunion and I came with him.

"Lately, though, he's been in the hospital so he couldn't move around. But we're going to make this (appearance)."

The Fridge resides in an assisted living facility in South Carolina.

I gave Fridge a call. He answered the phone but couldn't understand what I was saying, his hearing was that bad. Hollie said it's better in person if you speak to him slowly and louder.

"He's a jovial guy so the fans love him because he played hard," Hollie added. "He did some things few other people could do."

Perry occasionally blocked for Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton and coach Mike Ditka even let him tote the rock a few times when "rubbing it in" against opposing coaches he didn't like.

In a televised game Oct. 21, 1985 against Green Bay, Perry became the league's first 300-pounder to score on Monday Night Football.

He also scored on a one-yarder against the Patriots in Super Bowl XX that sent defenders sprawling like bowling pins.

"He'll talk to you. No problem. He still runs his mouth a bit," Hollie said of the Griffith appearance.

One of 12 siblings — eight brothers and four sisters — The Fridge remains mobile in his everyday life.

"Oh, he still drives. He's got a Hummer," Hollie said. "Everybody comes up to him all the time. He's not forgotten. I just took him shopping last week. He went to a Polo outlet in Charleston (S.C.).

"A lady came up to him and said 'Hello, Mr. Refrigerator.' It surprised me. But he's a good guy. He's a happy guy. It's hard to make him mad."

Hollie Perry paused.

"Unless you mess with his money," he chuckled.

I'll never forget Bears' training camp one year in Platteville, Wisconsin, when Payton, Dan Hampton and Steve McMichael tip-toed up to a Porta-Potty Perry was using and tipped it over.

The chase went on across three practice fields for a good 10 minutes.

I've never seen an appliance overheat that fast.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

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