Oct. 14, 2005
By Craig Chval
Whether you spot Tom Thayer in the crowded confines of a radio broadcast booth high above Soldier Field or surfing the endless expanse of brilliant blue Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii, you can be sure of one thing - Thayer has put in hours of time preparing to engage in his passion.
An honorable mention All-American offensive lineman for Notre Dame in the early 1980s, Thayer is in his ninth season as an analyst for Chicago Bear radio broadcasts. Thayer, who grew up a Bear fan in Joliet, IL, and started on the only Bear team to win the Super Bowl, treats the role as a full-time job.
To prepare, Thayer attends every Bear training camp session and nearly every practice during the season, and watches dozens of hours of video.
"It's too easy to say something's bad or something's good - it's usually not that simple," Thayer explains. "You want to have respect for the players and be specific when you're describing a player's performance. The players know that when I say something, it comes from having watched hours and hours of tape."
Once the season is over, Thayer leaves for his second home in Hawaii. But Thayer's days aren't an endless succession of mai-tais and suntan oil - he's up daily before dawn in search of giant waves. "Surfing is a very individualistic sport; if you're serious about it, you can't wait around until a bunch of your friends get interested in it," Thayer explains.
"But when you pull up to the ocean and see the surf and that there are big waves that are going to challenge you, it's the same feeling in the pit of your stomach as when you're driving to the stadium to play a football game on a Sunday morning.
"It keeps my blood flowing."
There is one thing that is more important to Thayer than football and surfing - his family. Thayer is the youngest of five siblings, and his parents welcomed three more children into the household after neighboring parents died in a plane crash.
"My parents have been married 54 years and the reason we all respect each other so much and care about each other so much is the commitment that my parents had to all of us," says Thayer.
For now, Thayer is content to play the roles of devoted son and uncle to a swarm of nieces and nephews. Given Thayer's passion for family and watching football tape, don't be surprised if his future holds parenthood and/or coaching.
This may not be the last we've seen of Tom Thayer in "Catching up with ..."