It is mid-morning in early October, in a corner at Egg Harbor Café in Lake Forest. Former Chicago Bears long snapper Patrick Mannelly, a Libertyville resident, had just dropped off his 10-year-old daughter, Tyler, at school in Lake Forest.
He looks relaxed and fresh, happy and positive. The 41-year-old’s goatee, dark and barber-shopped neat, would look perfectly normal on a 25-year-old’s face. And he’s wearing a golf outfit, his favorite uniform nearly three years removed from his final game in a No. 65 Bears jersey. Tee time today is 12:50 p.m.
Time to eat (he’d ordered an omelet, with bacon and spinach and onions and green peppers). Time to talk about … all kinds of subjects.
“Life is good,” Mannelly, 6-foot-5 and adorned in a bright-white athletic vest, says. “It’s one of my favorite things to do, driving my daughter to school. We sing in the car. We rock out to her music and to my music. I’ve introduced her to Bruce Springsteen, to Michael Jackson, to George Strait.”
Mannelly has dabbled in media stints since retiring as the longest tenured Bear in franchise history (16 years, 245 games). He currently tri-hosts a Bears pregame radio show on WSCR-1160 AM and hosts “Chicago Huddle”, which airs every NFL Sunday morning on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. He’d co-hosted a WSCR sports talk show, with Matt Spiegel, for five months before opting out of his two-year contract.
“I listened to sports-talk radio when I was player,” Mannelly says. “I enjoyed it. I wanted to try it, and doing it for the months I did was an awesome opportunity. It was a thrill, talking sports, but I didn’t want to talk about players’ personal lives on the air.”
He also found out, thanks to his Bears special-teams coach, Dave Toub, coaching professional football should be left to others. Toub now coaches special teams for the Kansas City Chiefs.
“Dave,” Mannelly says, “wanted me to work with a young long snapper, and I got to do that during training camp. Then I realized, during a special teams meeting, ‘This is not what I want to do.’ I’m glad I found out. I’m glad I found out the lifestyle of an NFL coach would not suit me. The question, ‘Should I get into coaching at the pro level?’ is now out of my head, for good.
“You could say I’m still transitioning from my life as a player, and I’m OK with that.”
One of his former Bears teammates, center Olin Kreutz, coaches grade-school football players at School of St. Mary in Lake Forest. He has invited Mannelly to show up at practices, point things out, design special-teams plays. The Crusaders’ special-teams playbook has Mannelly’s Bears paws all over it.
“Olin will call me up once a while, and we’ll talk youth football, talk about what he’s been installing,” Mannelly says. “He once texted to me, ‘I need a fake-punt play.’ ”
Need to know the keys to achieving a hole-in-one? Ask Mannelly. He aced three holes — in about four months. The first occurred at a 2011 Evans Scholars event in McHenry, his playing partner that day, Blackhawks broadcaster Pat Foley, doubling as a witness. Mannelly could have collected $10,000 toward the purchase of a car that day. He did not need a car, so he donated all of the money to the Evans Scholars Foundation. Long snapper hikes caddies’ coffers. Twelve days later, Mannelly needed only one stroke to complete a hole at Onwentsia Club in Lake Forest. Some three months after that, a hole at Ivanhoe Club in Mundelein swallowed one of Mannelly’s drives.
“I look at playing golf like I looked at snapping a football,” says Mannelly, a long snapper and offensive lineman at Duke University before the Bears drafted him in the sixth round of the 1998 NFL Draft. “I enjoy trying to be perfect at something, at some craft. I tried to be the perfect snapper. What I especially enjoyed was the process. Funny story. When I was young, I was in the front yard one day with my dad [Jay] and my older brother [Bernard, a former University of Notre Dame football player]. We’d received this pamphlet, from the Atlanta Falcons’ organization, on how to be an effective long snapper. My snaps, my spirals, were better than my brother’s on that day. I became a long snapper.
“I’m trying to find the perfect golf swing now,” adds the Bears’ Super Bowl long snapper in 2007. “Everybody who plays golf wants that, right?”
Every third pitcher, it seems, is undergoing Tommy John elbow-ligament surgery. John pithed for 26 years in the major leagues. His daughter, Tamara, attended Duke and got to know a long snapper from Marist School in Atlanta. Patrick Mannelly proposed to Tamara John in between Bears mini camp and training camp in 1998. They got married at Duke University Chapel.
“My wife makes me a better person,” Mannelly says of Tamara, a former Highland Park teacher and a current co-author of “Oh Lardy”, a food blog. “She challenges me, she’s as smart as can be, and she does so many tasks so well at the same time.”
Tyler Mannelly was born on December 24, 2005.
It wasn’t just Christmas Eve.
It was also Bears-Packers Eve.
Bears 24, Packers 17.
A precious-precious weekend.