Chicago Bears Hall of Famer Dan Hampton’s life was forever changed by his time playing football in college. So Saturday night, he joined Calumet College of St. Joseph on Saturday evening to help keep the tradition alive for the region’s students.
He spoke about everything from the importance of teamwork to the Bear’s upcoming season at Crimson and Grey Night, a fundraiser for CCSJ’s athletics department which was held in the college’s gymnasium. Hampton said he was drawn into football because it was “simple math.”
“The old saying is, you work hard, you’ll see how lucky you get,” Hampton said. “Well for a kid that struggles in school they could think, ‘Work hard; what does that mean?’ The thing about athletics is, it’s a real simple equation. You work hard in the weight room, you get bigger, faster, stronger. You work harder on the football field, you get to be a better player, you tackle better, you block better… That’s what I liked about it, it’s somewhere you can work hard- and there’s no limits.”
The fundraiser included a catered buffet, a silent auction, live auction and raffles for anything from gift baskets from local businesses to autographed footballs from Hampton. Though the college does not currently have a football program, they created a special school spirit crimson jersey for the auction.
“This is the first fundraiser we have done of its kind,” said Rick Torres, Director of Athletics at Calumet College of St. Joseph. “We put on a great show by bringing on an awesome speaker. First and foremost, we are here to raise funds, but we really want people to leave with a great experience.”
Before the event began, Hampton had a meet and greet with attendees and fans, casually chatting about the team’s famous ’85 season and signing footballs and photos.
Seven-year-old Jesse Diaz, who recently attended his first summer football camp, and his 9-year-old sister, Emme Diaz, marveled at Hampton’s championship ring after he autographed their photos.
Their mother, Ester Diaz, Director of Institutional Advancement at CCSJ, said having Hampton at the event was great because there’s “such a big Bears community in Northwest Indiana.”
“This is a great opportunity to talk about the importance of athletics,” Diaz said. “Our student athletes make up 60 percent of our student population.”
Andy Marks, Director of Enrollment Management at Calumet College of St. Joseph, said funding sports goes beyond just improving the facilities for current student athletes.
“Events like these tie us into the community and tie the community to us,” Marks said. “It’s a chance to celebrate athletics. It is athletics, along with academic programs, that brand your institution. You recognize a lot of schools by their teams’ logo.”
Marks said Northwest Indiana is known for being an athletic community, which plays a big part in attracting local high schoolers to CCSJ.
“A lot of champions and wins come from the region,” Marks said. “It’s a strong tradition for us.”
Torres said sports are an integral part of keeping the CCSJ community alive and strong.
“If there were no athletics, we wouldn’t have a school,” Torres said. “It provides an opportunity for good athletes and good students to stay near home. We also need to build dorms and grow our programs to keep the college thriving.”
Calumet College of St. Jospeh Alumni Donald Kubacki enjoyed Crimson and Grey Night and was proud to support it.
“This says a lot about the school,” Kubacki said. “That it is very much interested in being part of community, stay a part of community and engage with all of the people in the community.”
As for the value of sports for youth, Hampton said being a good athlete teaches young people things like dedication and hard work that help them far beyond their sporting arenas.
“That’s the thing about athletics,” Hampton said. “If you buy into it and dare to conceive to believe then, boy, you can do some pretty special stuff.”
For more information about Calumet College of St. Joseph, go to www.ccsj.edu.