Former Texas Longhorn All-American Steve McMichael has been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His addition to the Hall as a member of its 2024 induction class was announced on Thursday night at NFL Honors, the league’s annual awards ceremony held in the week leading up to the Super Bowl.
McMichael played in the NFL for 15 seasons and was a star defensive tackle for some very good Chicago Bears teams during the 1980s, including the Bears’ legendary 1985 squad that went 15-1 in the regular season and won Super Bowl XX. Though never on the bigger side for the positions he played in college and in the pros, he was known as a hard worker and a very aggressive and boisterous player who always got the most out of his ability, and his strength and personality lent itself to the nicknames he acquired along the way. He is best known, especially in Chicago, where he continued to live after his playing career, as “Mongo”, a nickname bestowed on him by his longtime Bears teammate Dan Hampton in reference to the comically strong but unintelligent character of the same name in the 1974 movie Blazing Saddles played by former NFL defensive tackle Alex Karras.
Preceding his NFL career was a storied and successful collegiate career with the Longhorns, during which he was a four-year letterman from 1976 to 1979, was twice named to the All-Southwest Conference first team as a defensive tackle, and was a team captain and consensus All-American as a senior in 1979. He signed with Texas as a 6’2” 215-pound prospect in the 1976 recruiting class from Freer High School in south Texas. While at Freer, McMichael was literally a do-everything athlete, winning letters in football, basketball, baseball, track & field, golf, and tennis.
In his senior football season at Freer in 1975, he made the Associated Press’s Class 2A All-State team at three different positions; he made the first team at both defensive end and kicker, and was a second team selection at tight end. In that 1975 season, he reportedly averaged 18 tackles per game on defense, caught 22 passes for 464 yards while playing tight end, rushed for another 585 yards after being moved from tight end to fullback, also served as his team’s kicker and was successful on 29 of 30 PAT attempts and 7 of his 11 field goal attempts, and had a season-long field goal of 48 yards. His team finished the regular season 9-1, but, this still being the era where only one team from each district reached the postseason, the Freer Buckaroos missed the playoffs by virtue of losing their district’s championship to Hebbronville, a team that would reach the third round of the 2A playoffs before losing 47-0 to eventual state champion La Grange.
He came to the University of Texas in 1976 as part of the final recruiting class signed by Darrell Royal. He signed his letter of intent despite having not made any official visits as a recruit and only having visited the Texas campus once for its 1975 home game against Texas Tech. He spent the early part of his freshman season as a backup tight end, but was moved to defensive end in late October after three Longhorn defensive ends were sidelined by injuries. He was credited with 16 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, and one sack in that year. It was early in his college career that he became known as “Bam Bam”, after the Flintstones character.
Weighing in at a very solid 235-240 pounds, he became a regular starter at defensive tackle as a sophomore in 1977, the Longhorns’ first season under new head coach Fred Akers. The Austin American-Statesman’s Kirk Bohls wrote during that season that McMichael “could pass for the UT tower in a police lineup”. He finished the 1977 season tied for fifth on the team with 78 total tackles and was credited with 12 sacks. He made the AP’s All-Southwest Conference second team that year. A late season injury to star placekicker Russell Erxleben allowed him to show off his kicking skills, as he’d done in high school. While serving as UT’s kicker in late-season wins over Baylor and Texas A&M, he made 8 of 10 PAT attempts and was successful on a 48-yard field goal kick against A&M. The Longhorns went 11-0 in the regular season that year and were ranked #1 in the last six AP polls of that campaign, but their national championship hopes were dashed with a 38-10 loss in the Cotton Bowl to fifth-ranked Notre Dame.
McMichael’s legend grew in his final two seasons in Austin. As a junior in 1978, he was the team’s leading tackler and was credited with 102 solo tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, and 43 quarterback hurries, and 4 forced fumbles. He was again the team’s leading tackler as a senior in the 1979 season, in which he was credited with 89 solo tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles. He was named a consensus All-American that year after being named to the first teams of the AP, United Press International, American Football Coaches Association, and the Football Writers Association of America.
He was picked in the third round of the 1980 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots with the 73rd overall selection. He played in just six games as a rookie that year, and was cut by the Patriots during training camp in 1981. He went on to sign with the Chicago Bears, and remained with that franchise for 13 seasons. He was a regular starter at defensive tackle by 1983, and was named a first team All-Pro in 1985 for a Bears team that had the NFL’s top scoring defense in the regular season and outscored its three playoff opponents 91-10 en route to winning Super Bowl XX. He was named a first team All-Pro for a second time in 1987. With McMichael in the defensive lineup, the Bears won six division titles in the span of seven seasons (1984-90) and reached the NFC Championship Game three times.
After 13 seasons with the Bears, he signed with the Green Bay Packers in 1994, and retired after playing one season with that franchise. By the end of his career he had made two Pro Bowls, been named a first team All-Pro twice and a second team All-Pro three times, and accumulated 95 sacks, recording all but 2.5 of them as a Bear. (Sacks became an official NFL statistic in 1982, McMichael’s third season in the league.) According to a release from the Chicago Bears, McMichael is second on the team’s all-time sack list with 92.5, and he once played in a team-record 191 consecutive games, a remarkable record of resilience that he attained while playing through various ailments and eight knee operations, and also a statistic that doesn’t include the handful of games he missed in the 1987 season due to the NFL Players Association strike.
Though he’d been a decorated and highly-respected player as a professional, he had never been a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist prior to 2023. In August of last year he was one of three players named as a finalist by the Hall of Fame’s Seniors Committee. His selection for the Hall of Fame required a “yes” vote from 80% of the 50-person Selection Committee, which he received.
His selection is bittersweet for many Longhorn and Bears fans, coming nearly 30 years after the end of his playing career, and just under three years after it was publicly announced that he had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which has left him physically as a shell of the man who was once among the most feared linemen in the Southwest Conference and in the NFL. His condition prevented him from attending the NFL Honors ceremony where his upcoming induction was announced, and his wife attended on his behalf. ChicagoBears.com senior writer Larry Mayer shared a video on X (formerly Twitter) of the scene at McMichael’s home when his Hall of Fame selection was announced.
Here’s Steve McMichael at his home, surrounded by friends and former teammates, when his Hall of Fame election was announced on NFL Honors. Honored to be invited. pic.twitter.com/QKKgWdM3Z3— Larry Mayer (@LarryMayer) February 9, 2024
The enshrinement ceremony for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2024 induction class is scheduled to take place in Canton, Ohio on Saturday, August 3. When he is inducted, McMichael will join Bobby Layne, Earl Campbell, and Bobby Dillon as former Longhorns who were inducted into the Hall of Fame as players. The Hall also includes former Longhorn defensive back and 1948 team captain Tom Landry, who was inducted in 1990 as a coach after his 29 seasons leading the Dallas Cowboys. In addition to those, UT graduate Tex Schramm, the longtime general manager of the Dallas Cowboys, was inducted in 1991 as a contributor.
Prior to being selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Steve McMichael was inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame in 1992, the University of Texas Athletics Hall of Honor in 1999, and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.