(page 3 of 17)
by Shane Tritsch
THEN Cornerback, Chicago Bears (1976–84)
NOW Dentist, missionary
As a Bears defensive back, Terry Schmidt constantly worried about getting burned by wide receivers. “If you made a mistake, you lit up the scoreboard,” he says. But he worried more about something else: “My biggest fear was that I’d retire and the next year the team would win the Super Bowl.” After nine seasons with the Bears, Schmidt called it a career in the spring of 1985, soon after the Bears lost the NFC championship game to the San Francisco 49ers. He had studied dentistry as an undergraduate, so in September of that year he enrolled at the Loyola University School of Dentistry. Simultaneously, the Bears’ 1985 season began—eventually ending in Super Bowl triumph. As he watched his former teammates captivate the sporting world, Schmidt recalls thinking that maybe he could have played one more year. “But physically it was time for me to retire,” he says.
He graduated from Loyola in 1989 as co-valedictorian of his class. Today, he is chief of dental service at Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville, North Carolina. Besides rebuilding bridges and crowns at the hospital, he goes on evangelical missions, bringing modern dental care to the Third World. Last year he traveled to a remote village in the African nation of Togo. He has floated down the Amazon River in Brazil and has been to Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. This July, he’ll embark on his 18th mission, leading a team of dentists and physicians to Honduras.
“I would encourage every person to go at least one time on a foreign mission trip, because we are so blessed in this country and take so much for granted,” he says. “I’ve met people in Third-World countries who are happy to have a meal each day, a roof over their head, and their wife and kids with them. It helps me appreciate what is really important in life.”
For fun, Schmidt has recently taken up fly-fishing. “I’m hooked,” he says. And he closely follows the Bears. “I still bleed blue and orange.”
Photograph: Matt Rose