At the Bears luncheon held last week on the campus of Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, fans began arriving more than two hours early just to line up for autographs and to meet the players.
One of the first in line was Kim Erkman of Schaumburg, who expressed optimism about the upcoming fall season.
"I'm so excited for the new season," she said. "I'm so impressed with everything (General Manager Phil) Emery has done so far. They're going to go all the way."
At the heart of the luncheon was the presentation of the Ed Block Courage Award to Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, who was on hand to accept the honor.
"I'm always appreciative of my teammates and of the administration," Urlacher said to a crowd of reporters before the luncheon. "This shows how much faith they have in me."
Head Coach Lovie Smith was one of the first to arrive at Maryville. He spoke to the media, but privately added that Urlacher had overcome a lot of adversity last year, between his knee injury and the death of his mother, and the award reflected that.
"Brian is the captain of our team, and he has been every year I've been here," Smith said. "He sets the tone for everything we do."
The luncheon also honored David Reveles, a Maryville graduate and recipient of one of the Ed McCaskey scholarships, which the afternoon's proceeds benefited.
Pat McCaskey, Bears senior director, described the scholarship to the 370 guests in attendance. He told how it was started in 2004, one year after his father, Ed McCaskey, passed away, and that it reflected his family's long standing commitment to Maryville youth.
Beforehand, he described some of its background and how, while growing up, the family had lived two miles away from Maryville in Des Plaines.
"We moved there in 1949," Pat McCaskey said, "and my parents became very supportive of Maryville. Each year, we had to choose one Christmas gift to give to a child at Maryville.
"This is an extension of that," McCaskey added. "It's an opportunity for Maryville students to continue their education."
Reveles currently is a junior at Elmhurst College, majoring in finance and minoring in Spanish. He hopes to work in investment banking, he said, or in wealth management.
His scholarship award is in the amount of $5,000 per semester, and it is renewable each year.
Reveles thanked the Bears before speaking extemporaneously to the crowd. While it was his first time addressing a crowd that large, he said he didn't have to think long before coming up with his remarks.
"Maryville (teachers and staff) have been with me every step of the way," Reveles said. "They have offered me the help that I needed to make the transition to college.
"I wasn't very focused when I was in high school, but they saw something in me," he added. "They have been very supportive of me and, even now, stay in constant touch with me. I couldn't have done this without them."