William ‘The Refrigerator’ Perry Is Broke, And Spends His Days Drinking In His Car
June 28 / Rick Chandler / SportsGrid
What ironic cosmic shenanigans are these? Just one day before noted curmudgeon and defensive football savant Buddy Ryan died, Rick Telander of Sports Illustrated has written for Sports Illustrated the sad story of William "Refrigerator" Perry, Ryan's most celebrated pupil on the 1985-86 Super Bowl winning Chicago Bears.
Perry, the rookie DE from Clemson, weighed in at 308 pounds by the time he got to the Bears, and probably 330-340 by the time he retired. That's not so remarkable today, but by 1986 standards that was P.T. Barnum enormous -- something rarely seen in nature. And that, along with his gregarious personality, undeniable talent, and the fact that he was occasionally allowed to carry the ball on offense (also nearly unheard of), made him a household name.
Endorsements, fame, a Super Bowl ring -- he had it all.
Now he has none of that. Perry, reports SI, is now residing in his hometown of Aiken, S.C., living on social security and a small NFL pension. The 53-year-old long ago hocked his Super Bowl ring, and spends most of his time, writes Telander, in his car (a white Hummer), in the driveway of a ramshackle house in Aiken, drinking with friends. His millions are gone.
And he has health problems -- the only way he gets around now is with a walker. He almost had a foot amputated due to diabetes. SI:
As Fridge, 53, says now, “I’m not doing anything bad. That’s not in me, not in my family — we weren’t raised that way. I do things in a correct way, a respectful way.”
But not, alas, in a healthy way. ... Fridge drinks. Too much. That he drinks at all, really, is a problem. He has physical and mental issues that demand sobriety. (“I’m sure he’s got traces of CTE,” says younger brother Michael Dean, himself a former NFL defensive lineman.) In 2011, just 11 years after he flashed his famous imperfect smile for the cheery cover of Sports Illustrated’s first Where Are They Now? issue, Fridge declared publicly that he is an alcoholic. He has been to rehab. He’s been told by doctors to stop drinking.
But he won't.
Despite all the tumult, this is pretty much what Fridge does every day now: hang out with people who lack apparent jobs or places to be, shoot the breeze and drink. He’s got his own vodka cup. ... The thing is, Fridge can’t move from his driver’s seat. His car reeks of urine because he sometimes can’t control his bladder, sometimes doesn’t care.
Mike Ditka, Perry's head coach with the Bears, is aware of his situation and will say only that "people have to help themselves. The question is, why won't Perry?"
Perry says that he's just "a country boy" who isn't bothering anyone and who likes to fish in ponds. But there's no indication that he's even doing that anymore. It's one of the worst Where Are They Now stories ever.
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