William 'The Refrigerator' Perry's Super Bowl touchdown remembered
The Fridge's touchdown immortalised 30 Super Bowls on
By James Dielhenn
Last Updated: 11/01/17 10:45am
Thirty years have passed since William 'The Refrigerator' Perry cemented his name and image into pop culture history with one of the Super Bowl’s most enduring moments.
A generation to whom the NFL was a new and exciting alternative watched fixated as the overweight Perry, the man who played with a gap-toothed smile on his face, turned himself into a runaway train to score a shock touchdown at Super Bowl XX in February 1986 before famously spiking the ball into the ground.
His Chicago Bears were comprehensive victors on the 20th anniversary of the Super Bowl and even with the 50th edition set to be played between Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos on Sky Sports this Sunday, the legend of the 300lb Perry evokes nothing but good memories for anyone who shared his moment.
He was a supreme athlete. People don't realise he could dunk a basketball. People tend to forget his ability to run.
Sky Sports expert Shaun Gayle played alongside Perry in the Bears' momentous '85 season and confirms the urban myths of his gigantic team-mate's athletic prowess despite a midriff that suggested otherwise.
"His nickname came from the university that he attended, there was a photograph taken of William sitting next to a refrigerator," Gayle told Sky Sports. "He was so big that he blocked it out of the picture.
"He was a supreme athlete. People don't realise he could dunk a basketball. Despite being as big and as heavy as he was, he was really athletic. People tend to forget his ability to run. During the '85 season against Detroit he picked up a fumble and ran, and the fans were amazed that a man of that size could run.
"As an athlete, there wasn't a lot that he could not do. But he was a very big guy."
The big guy's grandest moment came at Super Bowl XX against the New England Patriots when he trundled his colossal frame upfield before being handed the ball on offence. Perry, a fish out of water and also in the limelight, crushed those in his path to score a one-yard rush before celebrating manically.
Memories of that game 30 years ago have embellished Perry as the match-winner but, in fact, his touchdown made the score 44-3 en route to a 46-10 result. His unlikely presence in a scoring position, Gayle remembers, was a rehearsed masterstroke by coach Mike Ditka and handed Perry a third touchdown of the season.
"The play didn't surprise the Patriots because we did it to them earlier that year," Gayle said. "We did it in retribution to the 49ers doing it to us a year before - in the NFC Championship game they put an offensive lineman in the backfield and pounded us. We in turn enlisted 'The Refrigerator'.
"Keep in mind that we played the Patriots earlier that year and beat them soundly. We were confident in achieving a performance that will be talked about for as long as American football is played."
The true foundation of the Bears' Super Bowl success was their fearsome defence - the greatest version of the Monsters of the Midway - who smashed opponents and records in equal measure. They posted Super Bowl records for the biggest margin of victory, the most sacks and fewest conceded yards. Thirty years down the road, former Bears linebacker Ron Rivera leads the Panthers to Super Bowl 50 as head coach.
Gayle played safety while Perry was a rarely-used defensive tackle - because his worthiness divided the Bears coaching staff - until he repaid Ditka on the biggest stage. Yet perhaps the best personification of Perry's unassuming personality inside the larger-than-life body is that he regards his touchdown as a regret - the play deprived the Bears' Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton of a chance to score at a Super Bowl, a milestone he would never achieve.
But the Windy City in the mid-80s was a fun place to play football where lifelong bonds were formed - Perry is the most famous character from a team of mavericks who recorded 'The Super Bowl Shuffle' hip-hop song and broke through into mainstream culture.
"I no longer miss the circus but I'll always miss the clowns," Gayle said. "The team's popularity was not just about good football. We appealed to non-football fans who enjoyed seeing what the guys would do next.
"We had nine different non-sports magazine covers that featured our players."
Perry played 10 years in the NFL, joining the Philadelphia Eagles in 1993, but would never reach the same heights as his rookie season. He would never score another touchdown after the famous moment that endeared him as the face of an emerging sport on this side of the Atlantic, and to this day his Super Bowl ring is the largest one ever made.