The first thing you noticed about Mike Singletary was his eyes.
They were wild, crazed, and foretold that mayhem and malice were afoot.
— NFL Classic! (@79_nfl) September 14, 2019
Thankfully, Mike Singletary was on a football field and threatening the livelihood of an opposing quarterback.
Singletary played 12 years for the Chicago Bears and won a Super Bowl with the franchise.
Throughout his career, Singletary refused to be outworked and spurred his teammates to give it their all.
He was a team leader and role model for young players.
Singletary’s eventual induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame confirms his legacy as one of the best linebackers in NFL history.
This is the story of “Samurai” Mike Singletary.
Religion and Football
Michael Singletary was born on October 9, 1958, in Houston, Texas.
Good morning and happy birthday to Mike Singletary! He was born today in 1958 in Texas, the youngest of ten children.
During his 12 seasons with the Bears, he was named to 10 Pro-Bowls and won Super Bowl XX after the 1985 season. pic.twitter.com/rhWC4IAjbp
— Steve Cortes (@CortesSteve) October 9, 2020
Singletary’s father, Charles, loved the Lord and could be found on the streets of Dallas preaching to anyone who would listen.
After young Mike was born, the Singletary family, including all 10 children, moved to Houston.
Next to their modest home, Charles Singletary built a house of worship and he regularly played guitar during services.
Due to his father’s influence, Singletary was devoted to God for the remainder of his life.
“Whatever I do in life, the ministry and the Bible will always be with me,” he explained as an adult.
Despite his love for the church, there was only so much Singletary could take.
By the time he was in middle school, Singletary had drifted away from his father’s heavy-handed patenting and gravitated toward his older brother, Grady.
“My father was stern,” Singletary explained. “We sometimes spent 12 hours in church on Sundays.”
Charles Singletary didn’t believe his kids should participate in sports because it went against their faith.
Thankfully, he reversed course and allowed his children to play organized athletics when Singletary was in middle school.
Meanwhile, Grady made sure his brother avoided the pitfalls of youth and also introduced Mike to football.
On most Sundays, the two could be found glued to the television watching the Dallas Cowboys dominate their opponents.
Sadly, Grady Singletary was killed by a drunk driver before he could see his younger brother become a great football player.
“Before he died, my brother told me that whatever I do, to always do my best,” Singletary recalled. “I took it to heart. I had been something of a clown in the classroom but I began to realize I needed some direction.”
All-State as a Freshman
By the time he entered Worthing High School in Houston, Singletary was ready to show everyone he belonged on the gridiron.
As a freshman, he was named to the All-State team as a guard and linebacker.
For the next three years, Singletary’s play never wavered and he only got better.
Worthing High School(@WorthingColts1)honored 1 of its own,Hall of Fame LB Mike Singletary (@CoachMSing),part of Pro Football Hall of Fame(@ProFootballHOF)program to honor the hometown roots of football’s greatest players.Mike helped dedicate a plaque that pays tribute to Worthing pic.twitter.com/t9OgagwI8g
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) September 28, 2019
He was a star athlete for Worthing, although he didn’t get a lot of interest from the bigger college programs throughout the state.
One program that did notice him was Baylor University.
During his senior year, Singletary was spotted by the Baylor Bears’ assistant coach Ron Harms.
Harms was amazed at the skill set that Singletary displayed and brought game film back to Baylor head coach Grant Teaff.
It didn’t take the coach long to see that Harms was accurate in his assessment of Singletary.
“I honestly looked at about 10 plays and shut the projector off. What jumped out at me was his intensity,” Teaff said in 2013.
With no other colleges offering him a scholarship, Singletary headed to Waco, Texas after graduating from high school.
“Baylor was the first school that came to me, and I decided to go there…I could see myself being there and making a difference,” said Singletary.
Baylor’s Helmet Cracker
Barely six feet tall and a tad over 200 pounds, Mike Singletary could hit like a person twice his size.
He was taught the mechanics of tackling by a Baylor assistant and Singletary never looked back.
“Corky Nelson was my coach at Baylor,” Singletary said. “He taught me how to ‘punch’ and told me how important it was to have the right form and position. I’m not that tall, but sometimes small things are the most dangerous. It’s like a snake when he’s coiled. You don’t know when it’ll strike, and whoosh, it’s got you.”
Once he got the hang of hitting, it didn’t matter who the recipient was.
Friend or foe, Singletary was going to bring the thunder.
Mike Singletary looking very intense here back in the day for the Baylor Bears 🐻 pic.twitter.com/ABpr6yV9hr
— CFB Home (@CFBHome) January 22, 2021
Not long into his tenure at Baylor, the Bears’ new linebacker broke his first helmet.
“The first time my helmet broke was when I hit (running back) Dennis Gentry in practice,” Singletary said. “He came up the middle, and I tried to rock him. When my helmet broke, people began yelling, ‘Your helmet’s cracked!’ I was just glad it wasn’t my head. And then on the next play, I hit Gentry again and my helmet split again.”
During his four years in Waco, Singletary cracked no less than 16 of his helmets.
Singletary and the Bears Start Winning
In 1978, Singletary started as a sophomore and became a terror for Baylor.
The team may have only won three games that year, but the program became known throughout the Southwest Conference for the play of its star linebacker.
Singletary was known to get so worked up for games that he would hyperventilate.
The Baylor coaches found ways to keep him calm so Singletary wouldn’t wear himself out before playing.
“Our rednecks would be listening to Merle Haggard, the rockers to heavy metal, the blacks to soul groups and Mike to Bach and Beethoven,” recalled former Baylor sports information director Maxey Parrish.
That year, Singletary had multiple games with more than 30 tackles and ended the season with 232 total tackles and an All-Southwest Conference nod.
— NCAA (@NCAA) October 9, 2014
The Bears improved to 8-4 in 1979 and defeated Clemson in the Peach Bowl 24-18.
Singletary added 188 tackles as a junior and became a conference Defensive Player of the Year.
He was further honored with his second All-Southwest Conference award and a unanimous All-American designation.
In 1980, the Bears didn’t lose until their eighth game when they were upset by San Jose State.
After winning their next three, Baylor was ranked number six in the nation and would face number nine Alabama in the Cotton Bowl.
At that point, Singletary and the Bears’ defense had held opponents to just 129 total points including a 16-0 shutout win over the Texas Longhorns in the season’s final contest.
Singletary posted 145 total tackles and received a slew of awards including All-Conference, All-American, and SWC Defensive Player of the Year for a second time.
In his final game as a collegian, Singletary and Baylor were crushed by ‘Bama 30-2 to end the season 10-2.
Singletary Becomes a Bear for the Second Time
A number of NFL personnel directors believed Singletary would be drafted in the first round of the 1981 NFL Draft.
So, it was a shock when he was still on the board after the round ended.
Although he would have played well with any organization, Singletary secretly held out hope that one specific team would select him.
“I remember saying ‘Lord, if I can play with anybody, let it be the Chicago Bears,’” Singletary recalled.
Apparently, God was listening and Singletary was indeed drafted by Chicago with the 38th overall pick of the second round.
— Chicago History ™️ (@Chicago_History) April 28, 2016
He was now a Chicago Bear after being a Baylor Bear in college.
Singletary didn’t start right away, but by the seventh game of the ‘81 season, he made the starting lineup.
A few weeks later, Singletary announced his NFL arrival by forcing a fumble and making 10 tackles against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Chicago finished 6-10 that season, but Singletary was named to the Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie Team.
After the 1981 season, the Bears fired Neill Armstrong as their head coach and hired former player Mike Ditka.
Ditka played tight end for the Bears from 1961 to 1966 then spent the next six years playing for the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys.
He was known for his fiery temper and no-nonsense approach while plowing through defenders as a ball carrier.
After retiring as a player, Ditka spent nine years as a coach for the Cowboys before being hired by longtime Chicago Bears owner George Halas.
Once he arrived in Chicago, Ditka once again deployed the same ferocity he did as a player.
On this day in Chicago Bears history January 20th. The year was 1982 and they hired a new coach whose image became synonymous with my beloved Bears. IRON MIKE DITKA pic.twitter.com/JRWWtNfaQx
— Vee (@vee_whyme) January 20, 2022
While whipping his new charges into shape, Ditka and the front office began to add pieces to the roster that could help the franchise improve.
In the 1982 NFL Draft, the Bears selected outspoken BYU quarterback Jim McMahon with the fifth overall pick then added running back (and Singletary’s former Baylor teammate) Dennis Gentry in the fourth round.
On the practice field, Ditka gave Singletary a bit of advice.
“The thing I learned from Coach Ditka,” Singletary recalls, “is to never say die. Just go out and lay it on the line every play. And when you don’t have any more, find some way to find more.”
Defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan had even more words of wisdom for Singletary.
However, Ryan didn’t believe Singletary heeded his coaching knowledge and pushed his linebacker to be better.
“I really didn’t like Buddy for a long time,” Singletary said. “But, he taught me about myself, made me reach for things I thought I never had. I never would have achieved what I have without Buddy.”
During his first two seasons in Chicago, Ryan took Singletary off the field for third downs and passing situations.
Furthermore, whenever the coach addressed his pupil, Ryan called Singletary only by his uniform number (50).
Slowly but surely, the two began to trust each other and Ryan acquiesced and let Singletary play every down.
Mike Singletary & Buddy Ryan. pic.twitter.com/x8eG7Kk0CG
— NFL Classic! (@79_nfl) September 3, 2019
By 1983, Singletary was the captain of Ryan’s “46 defense” that now included rookie defensive end Richard Dent, rookie safety Dave Duerson, and veterans Dan Hampton, Steve McMichael, Otis Wilson, Leslie Frazier, and Jeff Fisher.
“Samurai Mike,” as Singletary was called, was voted to his first Pro Bowl after Chicago’s 8-8 season and Ryan loved what he saw in his leader.
“Mike is the best linebacker in pro football,” said Ryan. “He is dedicated, fast, has lots of ability, and he’s smart.”
In 1984, Singletary was voted to the Pro Bowl for a second time and added a first-team All-Pro designation for the first of seven times.
Chicago, who added Wilber Marshall and Shaun Gayle in the ‘84 draft, improved to 10-6.
Singletary and the Bears’ defense led the NFL in total defense in 1984 and beat Washington in the Divisional round of the playoffs.
Their season ended when Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers shut out the Bears in the NFC Championship game 23-0 in January 1985.
The 1985 Bears
The 1985 season got off to a great start when Chicago selected Clemson’s William “Refrigerator” Perry in the first round of the draft.
With “the Fridge” on board, the Bears’ defense repeated as the top-ranked unit in the league.
Singletary continued to lead by example and his habits of studying the opponent’s tendencies were second to none.
“I’ll never forget our first game this year against Tampa Bay,” said reserve linebacker Cliff Thrift. “I just joined the team, and I was watching Mike, and he was screaming out the other team’s plays before they happened. It was amazing.”
Chicago was blessed enough to have talent to spare on both sides of the ball, but even “the Punky QB” marveled at Singletary.
“On defense he is the glue,” said quarterback Jim McMahon in 1986. “When he talks, people listen.”
The Bears were on a roll in 1985 and won their first 12 games of the year.
— JVAN (@VanderlansJim) March 24, 2022
They lost their first (and only) contest against the Miami Dolphins in Week 13, which preserved Miami’s distinction as the only NFL team in the modern era to end a season undefeated.
After their loss to the Dolphins, Chicago closed out the year with three straight victories to finish 15-1.
Amid the season, Singletary and several teammates found time to cut loose.
They recorded a song titled “The Super Bowl Shuffle” and also released a video where various players, including Singletary, sang lyrics and gyrated to the beat.
Super Bowl XX
With the regular season behind them, Chicago faced the New York Giants in the Divisional round and advanced after a 21-0 shutout.
In the NFC Championship game, Singletary and company hosted Eric Dickerson and the LA Rams.
Dickerson was already familiar with Singletary from their college days when Dickerson’s SMU Mustangs played against “Samurai” Mike’s Baylor Bears.
“He was scared to death of Mike,” recalled Parrish.
It was more of the same during Championship Sunday when Chicago’s defense held Dickerson to only 46 yards rushing.
Mike Singletary stops Eric Dickerson. 1985. Oh my the intensity pic.twitter.com/8u3JNHI58x
— Joe Louis (@JoeLouissss) March 26, 2022
At one point in the first quarter, Dickerson took a handoff on a third and one and was promptly driven backward several yards by Singletary.
“I think that hit brought back some bad memories for Eric,” said Bears teammate Gary Fencik.
Chicago would post their second playoff shutout 24-0 and face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX.
Despite the Patriots’ best efforts, they ran into a buzzsaw.
Singletary broke up a pass, made huge hits, and recovered two New England fumbles (tying a Super Bowl record) during the game.
The Bears defense as a whole held the Pats to just seven total rushing yards.
Chicago’s defenders further determined the outcome when “the Fridge” scored a touchdown during the contest (as a running back) and corner Reggie Phillips scored on a 28-yard interception return as well.
When the smoke cleared, the Bears had their first Super Bowl title with a resounding 46-10 victory.
5️⃣0️⃣ Days Till NFL Kickoff! 🏈
50: Mike Singletary, Linebacker, Chicago Bears, 1981-1992
• Defensive Player of the Year in both 1985 and 1988
• He finished 1st or 2nd on the Bears in tackles in each of his final 11 seasons.
— The Fantasy Football Firm (@TheFFFirm) July 21, 2021
For the season, Singletary was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, and also received first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors.
More Accolades for Singletary
During the next two seasons, Singletary continued to lead the Bears in tackles and intensity.
Television cameras loved to zoom in on his face before plays, showing Singletary’s eyes wide open in full-crazy mode.
The fact Mike Singletary (NFL Defensive Player of the Year 1985 & 1988, NFL Man of the Year 1990) wasn't even mentioned during the @nflnetwork's #NFL100 All-Time D-Line & Linebackers team is baffling. Also, he was in the SUPER BOWL SHUFFLE, people! #BearDown @ChicagoBears pic.twitter.com/cUlJWT6EWI
— Billy Krumb (@ClubhouseCancer) November 30, 2019
Although Chicago failed to return to the Super Bowl in 1986 and 1987 after losses in the playoffs to Washington, Singletary was still steady in his efforts.
“His intensity, his zeal to do everything perfectly, makes him a leader by example,” said Bears coach Mike Ditka. “He’s like Butkus and Bill George and Joe Schmidt and guys like that. Except he has some qualities they didn’t have.”
In 1988, the Bears went 12-4 and Samurai Mike was a force once again.
He was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year for the second time and also received first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl accolades.
Unfortunately, Chicago wouldn’t get back to the Super Bowl that season, losing to San Francisco in the NFC Championship game 28-3.
Singletary’s Career Comes to an End
After the Bears dipped to a 10-loss season in 1989, they returned to their winning ways in 1990 with an 11-5 regular season.
Chicago then beat the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card round before succumbing to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the Divisional round.
Singletary, now in his tenth year, played some of the best football of his career.
This many days until Bills/Rams kickoff the 2022 season!! Who is your favorite #50?? Leave in the comments…
Pictured is Bears HOFer Mike Singletary!! Bears 2 days in a row!! Greatest Cowboy coming soon!! pic.twitter.com/ku0wHZ4S2N
— Tidewater Collectibles (@TidewaterColle1) July 20, 2022
During a game against Denver, he racked up 20 total tackles—his best single-game performance as a pro.
“I don’t know if Mike ever played a better season for us than he did in 1990,” remarked Ditka.
Singletary received second-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors after the season and also received the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award for his charity work.
In 1991, Singletary’s character was honored again when he received the Bart Starr Award for outstanding character and leadership.
He was selected as a first-team All-Pro and voted to his ninth Pro Bowl while the Bears went 11-5 and lost to the Cowboys in the Wild Card round.
Then, after Chicago went 5-11 in 1992 and saw the firing of Ditka, Singletary decided to call it quits as well despite being voted to his 10th Pro Bowl.
During his career, Singletary had 1,488 total tackles (including 885 solo stops), seven interceptions, 12 fumble recoveries, and 19 sacks.
He was a 10-time Pro Bowler, a Super Bowl champion, a seven-time first-team All-Pro recipient, a second-team All-Pro recipient, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year, a member of the All-Rookie team, and the winner of the Bart Starr Award and the NFL’s Man of theYear Award.
He was later voted to the league’s 1980s All-Decade Team and was named one of the 100 greatest Bears of all time.
Perhaps the most impressive number of Singletary’s career, especially due to his physical play, is his 172 starts for Chicago (the second best in Bears history) and only two missed starts in 12 years.
Singletary Wants Winners!
After leaving the game, Singletary became a motivational speaker and wrote a number of books.
He was selected as a member of the Baylor Athletics Hall of Fame in 1991, the College Football Hall of Fame in 1995, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998, and the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame in 2015.
In 2003, Singletary had an itch to return to the game and became the linebackers coach for the Baltimore Ravens.
A year later, Singletary joined Mike Nolan’s staff in San Francisco as their linebackers coach.
In late October of 2008, Nolan was fired and Singletary was named the 49ers’ interim coach.
During his first game as San Francisco’s coach, Singletary sent Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis to the locker room after Davis slapped an opposing player, drawing a 15-yard penalty.
After the game, Singletary, still irate at Davis, vehemently issued a challenge to his players by declaring, “I want winners! I want people that want to win!”
Never forget this all-time speech from Mike Singletary 😳
— 49ers on NBCS (@NBCS49ers) May 7, 2020
Singletary’s fire helped the struggling Niners finish the ‘08 season 5-4 and his “interim” tag was removed for 2009.
San Francisco had an up-and-down year in ‘09.
After a 3-2 start, the franchise dropped six of their last 11 games to finish the year 8-8.
Still, that mark signified the most wins for the Niners since 2002.
Things didn’t get better in 2010.
With the team sitting at 5-10, San Francisco’s management fired Singletary with one game remaining.
Losing Record as a Head Coach
Singletary would move onto Minnesota as linebackers coach for three years before becoming an advisor to the LA Rams in 2016.
In 2018, Singletary became the head coach of the Memphis Express of the new Alliance of American Football.
The organization had a 2-6 record before the league shut its doors for good during the season due to poor finances.
While coaching the Express during the spring, Singletary was also the head coach at Trinity Christian Academy in Texas.
After two seasons with Trinity and a 1-21 overall record, Singletary was fired in December 2019.
Former NFL coach Mike Singletary had a tough time winning at the high school level 😬 pic.twitter.com/Oqfcfn5yGx
— 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐍𝐞𝐰𝐬 (@sportingnews) May 24, 2020
As a head football coach, Singletary has a record of 22-49.
He has since expressed interest in becoming the head coach of both the Chicago Bears and the Baylor Bears but has not been offered either job.
Singletary might not have panned out as a successful head football coach, but his legacy as one of the best linebackers to play the game stands firm.
“There are times when I have to pinch myself when I think of all the things the Lord has blessed me with to accomplish,” said Singletary. “He never let me give up. I set out to do something and came very close to accomplishing everything I wanted.”