Que Sarah, Sarah

Monday, March 24, 2008

Some Old School Love for an ’85 Bear

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


http://theloveofsports.com/index.php/site/comments/dennis_mckinnon_1983_90/

By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent

"Shotgun."

"Showgun."

"South Miami Cobra."

Dennis McKinnon's had his fair share of nicknames, but the former Chicago Bears wide receiver is best remembered as "Silky D."

McKinnon began his football career as a South Miami High Cobra, where his big plays and quick bursts earned him the name "Shotgun." He went on to play his college ball for Bobby Bowden at Florida State, where his teammates tweaked his name to "Showgun," for his flair and showmanship.

Of course, his game wasn't all show. As a senior, McKinnon made a 27-yard leaping touchdown catch over two defenders to help his team win the 1982 Gator Bowl over Bowden's former team, West Virginia.

McKinnon was signed by the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 1983 — a year that featured one of the best draft classes of all time. The Bears cashed in, picking up fellow wide receiver "Speedy" Willie Gault, cornerback "L.A." Mike Richardson, safety Dave Duerson, offensive linemen Jimbo Covert, Mark Bortz and Tom Thayer and eventual Super Bowl MVP defensive end Richard Dent, just to name a few.

That year, McKinnon's rookie receivers coach, Ted Plumb, gave him his newest nickname "Silky D," because he made everything look easy. He was silky smooth.

McKinnon caught fewer balls than fellow rookie Gault that year, but he established himself as the go-to-guy on punt returns. He had his best year in 1987, when he returned 40 punts for 405 yards and a then-franchise record two touchdowns. His 94-yard return against the Giants was the longest punt return in the NFL that year and, at that point, the longest in Bears history.

At the time of his retirement, McKinnon's 1,191 career punt return yards were the second-highest total in Chicago franchise history. Of course, now that Devin Hester has descended upon the Windy City, the record books are being rewritten on a daily basis.

On the receiving end, McKinnon took advantage of his chances. In Chicago's 1985 championship season, he caught 31 passes for 555 yards and seven touchdowns, including two scores in the team's 21-0 Divisional win over the Giants. His four career postseason receiving touchdowns are still a Bears' team record.

In 1988, Gault was traded and McKinnon became Chicago's No. 1 receiver, catching 45 passes for 704 yards and three touchdowns, the most memorable being a 64-yarder in the infamous Fog Bowl against Randall Cunningham and the Eagles. That was McKinnon's last season with the Bears. He would spend his final year in the league with the Cowboys.

I tracked down McKinnon and asked him about his biggest career accomplishment.

"That's a hard answer," he replied, "but I would saying starting every year I played in the league when I wasn't even drafted."

And his best memory as a Bear? Maybe those touchdowns in the '85 playoffs? That 94-yard return? Nope. Something much more meaningful.

McKinnon told me his best memory, besides winning the Super Bowl, of course, was blocking for Walter Payton. Silky blocking for Sweetness. You can't write it much better than that.

In fact, Da Coach himself, Mike Ditka, said McKinnon was "the best blocking receiver I've ever coached."

McKinnon, who now lives back in the Chicago area, has translated his selflessness on the field to his everyday life, running his own company called "Bearly Active Productions" (www.bearlyactive.com). He's still true to the team that made him famous, too.

"The Bears are in my blood, so the name was catchy for a retired player," McKinnon said of his company. "My goal was to have fun and make money doing things I loved, like fundraising, motivational speaking and networking with athletes, politicians and the business communities."

With the 2008 Super Bowl approaching, I asked McKinnon how he thinks his '85 team would match up against this year's Patriots.

"It would be a hell of a game," he responded. "I would take our defense against anybody, and the luxury of time that Tom Brady enjoys would never be allowed against the '85 Bears D. We ran the ball extremely well with Payton, and the Pats' weakness is the inability to stop the run. It would be a very close game for sure!!"

And the current Bears squad? How can they get back on top?

McKinnon's reply was smooth and easy, just like his game: "Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback, running back, running back, running back."

Throw in a safety and an offensive lineman and I think we've got something, Silky.

That's why I'm givin' some mad Old School Love to Dennis "South Miami Cobra Shotgun Showgun Silky D" McKinnon this Super Bowl Week!

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