After moving as a young boy, Jim McMahon settled into high school and played his junior and senior football seasons at Roy High School in Roy, Utah.
McMahon stayed in-state, attending Bringham Young University in Provo, Utah.
Initially finding time on the field as the team's punter, McMahon split quarterback duties with starter Marc Wilson. Showing flashes of brilliance, McMahon became the main signal caller in 1980 after Wilson graduated and headed to the NFL.
That 1980 BYU football season was a magical one as McMahon set 32 NCAA passing records, including single-season records for total offense, passing yards, touchdown passes and a host of other categories.
McMahon had another standout season as a senior in 1981. He was named WAC Player of the Year, a first-team All-American by five organizations and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting. He won the Davey O'Brien Award and the Sammy Baugh trophy, both awarded to the nation’s top quarterback. Mac left college with over 70 NCAA records and entered the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.
The legendary Chicago Bears drafted McMahon with the fifth overall pick in the 1982 NFL Draft.
The punky QB wasted no time making an impact on and off the field as his colorful persona was showcased early on. On the field he was named the Bears starter as a rookie and, with his performance, named to several all-rookie teams as well as garnering NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
During his time in The Windy City, McMahon became a media magnet and cultural icon.
In 1985 the Bears put together a season so dominant that it will go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, in the history of professional football, winning their first 12 games and finishing the regular season 15-1. McMahon's personality was on full display throughout the dominating playoff run and eventual Super Bowl championship, where the Monsters of the Midway defeated the helpless New England Patriots by a then-record 46-10 drubbing in Super Bowl XX. The Bears Super Bowl team shuffled its way into NFL history.
From a dominating Super Bowl championship, the perfectly styled 80s sunglasses, the personalized headbands and so much more, Jim McMahon will always be an icon in Chicago.
After his time with the Bears, McMahon bounced around the league, spending time with the Eagles, Chargers, Vikings, Cardinals, Browns and the Packers before retiring in 1996.
The two-time Super Bowl champion, NFL Comeback Player of the Year and Pro Bowler spoke exclusively to Tony Reid about signing autographs, his own trading cards, Costco Brothers NFTs and behind-the-scenes details about that iconic Super Bowl Shuffle.
You are so beloved in Chicago, what has the relationship, from your perspective, been like with the city over the years?
The city has always treated me great. The fans were always good. I get to go back three or four times a year for different events. I lived there for 28 years. It was a big part of my life. I loved Chicago. I just didn’t like the weather.
Your rookie card appears in the 1983 Topps set. Do you remember the first time you saw yourself on a trading card?
I don’t remember that far back. I thought it was pretty cool that I was finally on one of these things that you have looked at for years growing up.
As a young kid, what athletes inspired you?
My favorite at the time was Joe Namath. I loved Joe Willie. I loved how he played and how he was able to take his persona and go do movies, TV and endorsements. He got to do a lot of different things. I always liked Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. I liked guys that won.
You have appeared on more than 1,000 different cards. Did you manage to hang on to any cards of yourself over the years?
I still have a few cards in the drawer. I try to keep them. Every once in a while I will see a new one that I haven’t seen before. I will throw that in the drawer as well. I will hang on to those. I have grandkids now. Hopefully they will enjoy them.
The 1985 Chicago Bears might be the single most iconic team in sports history. You recently posted a picture of the gold record you have from the Super Bowl Shuffle song and video. What was the overall Super Bowl Shuffle experience like for you?
When it was brought to us halfway through the season in 1985, it was supposed to be a record deal. They said the proceeds would go to feed the homeless on Thanksgiving and Christmas. We thought that was a good thing for the city of Chicago. We all agreed to do a record. That was the contract. We did our part in the studio and a couple of weeks later — it was Willie Gault and his friend in the record business idea — they came to us and said we needed to do a music video now. We said that wasn’t the deal. They said when you make a record now you have to make a video. I said that wasn’t the deal. Walter Payton and I both said we weren’t going to do a video.
They ended up taping the video the day after our only loss that year, the day after we lost to Miami. We got home from Miami about 3 a.m. The guy said to be at the studio at 8 a.m. They were recording for about eight hours. Walter and I didn’t go. We told them that wasn’t a part of the deal. About a week later they came to us right before practice and said that if we didn’t do our part we were going to get sued. So, what you saw, Walter and I had to do our part after practice at the racquetball courts in Halas Hall. What you saw up there was a pissed-off white man who had to do something that wasn’t in the contract.
From the Adidas headbands to the Rozelle headbands, the iconic shades and beyond, did you manage to hold on to any of those great items that collectors would love to get their hands on today?
I still have a little bit of memorabilia. I don’t have any of the Super Bowl headbands. I still have some jerseys. I still have the shoes I wore in the Super Bowl. Other than that, I have a lot of pictures and jerseys of the friends I played with. I still have the Super Bowl trophies that I keep in the office. I had a mancave but I am in the process of moving right now.
As a lifelong Bears fan, I would love to hear what the man cave looked like before the deconstruction.
It was basically my office. It had everything related to football in it. I probably had more stuff related to the military than I do football. My Super Bowl trophies were there. I had some of the college awards I won in there, too. I had a bunch of framed jerseys from Chicago. I had jerseys of Jay Hilgenberg, Jim Covert, I had Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus. I had Reggie White in there. I have a Lance Alworth. I don’t know how I got it.
Some of the most iconic collectibles that you are featured on are the Costacos Brothers posters. The Mad Mac poster and the Chicago Vice poster with Walter are classics. They are now coming back as NFT releases. What are your memories from the photo shoots that led to those great images?
It was a pretty cool idea that the Costacos Brothers came up with. I had a good time shooting the posters. They are actually going to re-release those again. They are coming out soon. I am looking forward to seeing those again.
To be standing there in that gear at the photo shoot, what was going through your mind? Were you just trusting the process?
We had a live bear on the set for the photo shoot. The live bear cub had pretty long claws. He was pretty good. We had to keep grapes handy to keep him settled down. He figured out that I kept the grapes in the shoes that were hanging off my hip. He was clawing up my leg to get to those damn grapes. We had to hurry up the shoot.
The back of your 1988 Topps card states that you won 28 of your last 29 starts and that you hadn’t lost at Soldier Field since Sept. 30 of 1984. You would be hard pressed to find a better encapsulation of the level of dominance of that era of the Chicago Bears. What was it like playing and living through that incredible dominance?
The only one I remember is the one we lost. That was the NFC Championship game. We played in three NFC Championship games in five years and only won one of them. That was unfortunate for that team.
As far as fan interaction, do you still get mobbed by people and get fan mail today?
Yeah I get a few things every day in the mail. When I am back in Chicago people still recognize me. I try to get to as many as I can. Back in the day there was no way to keep up. Now, if I’m sitting there doing my bills and there are a few in there we will get it taken care of.
There was a snippet in the Chicago Tribune leading up to the Super Bowl that said you had “Muhammad Ali like fan worship.” What was it like walking around as Mad Mac in the height of the craziness that was the 1985 Bears?
It was a pain in the ass. You couldn’t go anywhere, especially when I was with my family and my kids. My kids got run over I don’t know how many times. It was more of a distraction. I couldn’t go anywhere or take the kids anywhere. It wasn’t a whole lot of fun. It’s nice to be recognized but to be constantly hounded is not too much fun.
The jersey swap has become a tradition across sports now. If you could go back to your playing days, who would you want to ask for a jersey?
I never did swap jerseys. I got to play against Ken Stabler. That would have been a good jersey to get. We were all pretty much friends — Marino, Elway, all the guys of my era. They would be good jerseys to have as well.
— Tony Reid has written about sports collectibles for such publications as Beckett and Sports Collectors Daily. He works full-time at a sports card shop in Central Pennsylvania and collects RCs in baseball, basketball and football. You can reach him on social media at @reidrattlecage.