Philadelphia Eagles News

Where Are They Now? LB Bill Bergey

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For the Eagles to trade two first-round draft choices and a second-round pick for a player, that guy had better be SOME kind of a player.

He was.

Philadelphia acquired five-year veteran linebacker Bill Bergey from Cincinnati on July 10, 1974. But not before he had revealed plans to leave the Bengals by signing a future contract with the upstart World Football League.

"It was for the money. I'll make no bones about it," Bergey said. "The World Football League was going to give me about five times as much money as I was making in the NFL. I had a nice long talk with (Bengals general manager and coach) Paul Brown and he said, 'All that glitters isn't gold. You ought to take a real good, hard look at it.' But to secure the future for my wife and my kids, I decided to do it."

While the WFL closed its doors before Bergey played a game, he still faced a lawsuit from the Bengals. He won the case and was traded.

"I had gone through two weeks of court and I knew it was going to happen," Bergey said. "Eventually, the World Football League thing didn't work out and the Bengals wanted to be compensated in some way. So they ended up letting me go."

Bergey's reputation preceded his trip east, and he seemingly became the face of the Eagles' defense as he buckled the chinstrap on his new helmet for the first time.

"I was pretty much established. I played in the last American Football League All-Star Game, which was like the Pro Bowl," Bergey recalled. "I was Rookie of the Year my first year (1969) with Cincinnati. After five years, I had pretty much dug my roots in pretty good as far as the NFL goes."

Following two less-than-memorable seasons, Bergey and his teammates were introduced to their new 39-year-old head coach, Dick Vermeil.

"The very first thing I thought of was I can't believe this hairy high school coach is in the NFL," Bergey said of the youthful looking Vermeil, who had been the head coach at UCLA. "It was, you can't take a knee. You've got to keep your helmets snapped at all times.

"And I know what he was doing. He was trying to instill the discipline that was so obviously lacking. Anyhow, I liked the guy a lot because he got rid of a lot of riffraff on the team.

"I thought that he was just a crazy little son of a gun. But I've got to tell you, now he's one of my best friends. I just love the guy and I socialize with him. I enjoy him thoroughly."

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In 1980, the two future pals helped the Eagles post a 12-4 record and capture the NFC Championship. What was the key to the team's success?

"Just believing in Dick Vermeil, and believing in the hard work that was going to pay off. I think that was pretty much it," said Bergey. "Our defense finally got together. As a matter of fact, our defense that year was No. 1 with all of the statistics thrown into a hat, by far. I think we gave up like 211 points (222), which is astronomical.

"Ron Jaworski was the NFC Player of the Year. Wilbert Montgomery was playing great football. We had a good offensive line. We just kind of put it all together. We won all of the games we were supposed to win. We maybe stole one here or there, but the bottom line was we all stayed pretty healthy."

And once media day rolled around a few days before Super Bowl XV against Oakland, it was pretty eye-opening.

"We're practicing in the Superdome, and we're looking around and there's probably 16, 18 people there with cameras, and some big-time beat writers. And I said, 'You know, this isn't all that bad on media day.' But when practice was over, there was some guy that yelled out, 'OK, Ralph. You can let them in now.' And with that they opened the doors and about 2,000 media people came in. It was just the craziest thing I've ever seen," Bergey recounted.

Philadelphia's first trip to a Super Bowl ended with a 27-10 loss to the Raiders.

"Well, what happened was I think that we put so much emphasis on our Dallas (NFC Championship) game that we couldn't get back to the same physical, mental, emotional level for the Super Bowl," Bergey said. "That's not a copout or anything. We never talked about going to the Super Bowl.

"Our No. 1 goal was to overcome the Dallas Cowboys. And the thing that was so unbelievable is when I was walking down that tunnel onto the field, there was never a game that I played that I knew we were going to win as much as this game here. There was absolutely no doubt in anybody's mind – even though the score was 20-7 – it was not indicative of the way the game went. We destroyed the Dallas Cowboys that day.

"Afterward, we got into the locker room and we were all hooping and hollering and going crazy. We had overtaken the Dallas Cowboys! And then all of a sudden, it was 'Oh, wait a minute. We have another game to play and they just happen to call it the Super Bowl.'"

That game they just happen to call the Super Bowl would be Bergey's last. During a 12-year career, seven with the Eagles, he'd play in 159 games and five Pro Bowls. A leader on and off the field, his teammates voted for him to be the Eagles' MVP three times.

"Personally, I think the thing that makes me the proudest is I know that I left everything on the field," said Bergey, who recorded nearly 1,200 tackles for Philadelphia. "I played as hard as I could all the time. I wasn't one of those players that takes plays off or anything like that. I've had an awful lot of pats on the back and a lot of awards and all of that, but just knowing that I gave everything I had every play that I had, that's pretty rewarding.

"Going in (to the Eagles Hall of Fame) with Tommy McDonald (in 1988), it's just another real nice feeling. I think all together I'm in like a dozen halls of fame: the college, the states, the counties and all of that stuff. I'm not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and I'm not hung up on that at all. I'm old enough to where none of that stuff matters anymore. It is what it is and I'm content. I feel good about everything. I have no problems whatsoever."

Making his home in suburban Philadelphia, Bergey is in the hospitality business with some area hotels and restaurants and is a widely popular alumni representative for the Eagles.

"I stay very busy for a guy my age and that's the way I like it. During the offseason, I kind of back down a little bit. My wife, Micky Kay, and I do a lot of things together. Plus, we've got ourselves eight grandchildren, so that all keeps us going," he said. "Life is good."

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