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Then & Now: William "The Refrigerator" Perry

Then: Practicing with the Chicago Bears



William Perry

(CNN) -- Once a pop culture sensation as defensive tackle for the Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears and rapper in "The Super Bowl Shuffle," William Perry retired from football in the mid-1990s, but this grandfather still seeks out competition occasionally.

Indulging his fun side, Perry, nicknamed "The Refrigerator," boxed 7-foot-7-inch former NBA player Manute Bol, who won the 2002 match.

He also participated in the 2003 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest, coming in about 40 hot dogs behind the winner.

But it's his television commercials that hearken back to the run-stopping skills that made him an NFL star.

"I did one for ESPN, the League fantasy football, and I just did a Coors commercial," he said. "I'm fixing to do another one. I can't remember what it's about. Me, [Bears head coach] Coach Ditka, and [former teammate, quarterback] Jim McMahon are going to do it for the Super Bowl."

Born December 16, 1962, in Aiken, South Carolina, Perry was a three-time All-American at Clemson University and part of the Tigers' 1981 National Champion team.

After finishing as the school's all-time sacks leader (his records lasted until brother Michael Dean Perry came along and broke them), the Chicago Bears selected him with the 22nd pick in the first round of the 1985 NFL Draft.

Perry drew raves his rookie season as a run-stopper along the defensive line as the Bears raced off to a 12-0 start on the way to a 15-1 regular season and a Super Bowl championship.

As the Bears rolled along, Perry's legend grew, thanks to a rap record and video done for charity by the entire team called "The Super Bowl Shuffle."

Coach Mike Ditka would then add to Perry's growing legend by calling a play in which he scored a touchdown from the one-yard line in Super Bowl XX. That touchdown capped the Bears' 46-10 rout of the New England Patriots.

"We practiced doing that during that week," Perry recalled with a laugh. "When we got down to the goal line, [Ditka] called the same play and called me over and said, 'Big guy, here's your chance.' So he put me in and there it was. I scored in the Super Bowl."

That magical 1985 season was the high-water mark of Perry's football playing career, even though he played 7.5 more seasons in Chicago before being traded to Philadelphia, where he would play another season before calling it quits in 1995.

Then, after being a wall in the NFL for 10 years, Perry got into the business of building them, joining his father-in-law's construction business for several years.

"I did it four or five years after I retired, and then I retired from that. Now I'm just sitting back, doing a lot of fishing and relaxing."

While Perry may have tired of working, the public never tired of "The Fridge" and his loveable personality.

"When I go out of town, people look and they say, 'That's the Fridge,'" he said. "They come up, want autographs and take pictures."

Perry has settled down, raising three daughters, ages 24, 18, and 9, and a son, 12 -- possibly a future football player; he's already 6 feet, 260 pounds. Perry also gets out and talks to kids at local schools.

"You've got to have a message for the kids," he said. "You've got to study hard, stay in school, and listen to your teachers. The bottom line is, you've got to listen to your elders and respect them and get your grades.

"Everybody can't be a football player. Everybody can't be a basketball player. You need lawyers, doctors and everything else. So kids have to stay in school and study hard so they can get a quality education."

Perry, father of four, grandfather of one, says he doesn't miss playing football, a game he unknowingly revolutionized by playing so well at such a tremendous size.

"I was about the only 300-pound guy in the league; there were maybe two or three of us," he pointed out. "Now you've got 400-pound guys playing and the game is much faster. So it's changed a lot.

"I enjoyed it while I was playing it, and I had fun with the guys," he said. "I knew I had another life after football. I'm just enjoying myself and having fun."

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