Chicago Bears donates cleats to Joliet Central football program

Krista Mehrl, Views Editor

There’s something slightly magical about a pair of shoes. Movies like “The Sandlot” depict the ceremonial unwrapping of a brand new pair of PF Flyers, and “Like Mike” shows how a little kid can defeat NBA star players solely by sporting a pair of sneakers with the initials “MJ.” Even Cinderella’s magic seemed to be defined by her elusive glass slipper. Can a pair of shoes be credited as a miracle worker? Can 60 pairs of Chicago Bears cleats work a miracle for Joliet’s football legacy? We’re about to find out.

Let’s start by facing the crude reality: Joliet is neither the classiest nor the richest town on the planet. This became evident for Joliet Central football’s head coach Mike Maloney and offensive coordinator Brett Boyter on the first day of football camp last summer. Many boys did not even try out for the team because they did not own cleats or have the money to afford new ones. Those that made the team wore ripped and nearly dysfunctional cleats. Shoes were insufficient, worn, or too small. Thankfully, Joliet Central’s offensive coordinator had connections with a former Bears offensive lineman.

This lineman is Joliet’s own Tom Thayer, who is now a radio analyst for the Chicago Bears. “I talked to Tommy and he was more than happy to help us out,” Boyter said, “We got maybe 50-60 pairs of used shoes or more, that we were able to use during the season.”

When the Bears have an opportunity to give, they don’t hesitate. In addition to Central, the team donated a box of pairs to Eisenhower High School in Blue Island. “Tony (Tony Medlin, the Bears’ equipment manager) is super generous. He really came through. That’s another of those unnoticed actions that the Bears do,” Maloney said.

The Steelmen faced a winless season, but acknowledged the positive outlook of the road ahead. “Thanks to what Tom (Thayer) did, our kids have something they wouldn’t have been able to have. It’s important that we pass on the ability to dream to kids, and this helps us do that,” Maloney reflected.

Maybe that dream is fostered by a pair of Brian Urlacher cleats. Maybe a small gesture from an NFC Champion football team is embraced as a reason to hope. Maybe it’s the ability to dream, instead of a pair of shoes treated like gold. However many questions that could be pondered, “It’s all in the journey…a journey being made in proper shoes.”