Fencik's football career is a masterpiece of confidence. He is 31, and he has never been a sprinter, but it doesn't seem to matter. He seems to will himself into the right place on the field. Just check his stats.
"He is perfect for our complex defense," says Bears president Mike McCaskey, who, like Fencik, was a wide receiver at Yale and believes that sport maketh the complete man. "You don't want free-lancers, poor readers or people whose minds fog up back there. Naturally, you have to worry about him traipsing around the Orient for a couple months. But you appreciate his intelligence."
Bears coach Mike Ditka even moved Fencik from strong safety to free two years ago, and it didn't matter a bit. Indeed, with 32 career interceptions—a club-leading tie for five last year—he needs just six more to pass Richie Petitbon and become the Bears' alltime leading interceptor. And if he can make just 83 more tackles Fencik also will become the leading tackler in Bears history. On paper he then will be what he already is on the field—the best safety the Bears have ever had.
Fencik chuckles at those who see him as a prodigy. "People think I'm so Renaissance," he says. "But they should have seen me at Yale. I was nobody. Everybody was gifted there."
The reason Fencik went to Yale was because he had taken recruiting trips to Big Ten schools and felt he didn't want to play football 12 months a year. "At Yale I could tell there was something going on that I knew nothing about," he says. "I felt comfortable with the people." In New Haven he was a common grunt, a student in awe of the brilliance around him, and he loved it. As he likes to say, "I was no Rhodes scholar, but I knew some."
Geoff Tabin, for instance, a great thinker, a tennis player, a surgical resident in Colorado and a buddy of Fencik's at Yale. Tabin, clad in a tuxedo, appeared on network TV a while ago and jumped off the 1,053-foot-high Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado with only a mountain climber's harness to keep him from splattering on the rocks below. "I was supposed to meet Geoff in Nepal and do some mountain climbing during my recent trip," Fencik says. "But I just couldn't make it. And it kills me."
It was an event with potential transcendence that Fencik could have filed with other rare moments in his life. Such as the time George Halas showed up at practice to crank up the team after the Bears had fumbled away a game the week before. In his eighties, crippled and near death, the NFL pioneer had fire in his eyes and a football in his hand.
"This is how you carry the goddam ball," he snarled, tucking the leather under his withered old arm. "Like this!"
"I went wild," says Fencik.
Fencik sits in the sun at an outdoor table at his bar, the Hunt Club. He is one of three partners who bought the building, remodeled it and opened this chic pub in the New Town section of Chicago late last spring. "I always wanted to get involved in something like this," he says. "In a bar that would be the kind of place I'd like to go to." Early returns have been great; on weekends people have been lining up halfway down the block to get in. Fencik rides his bike through the crowded streets to his condo on Sheridan Road, near Belmont Avenue. He carries the bike up the stairs because even with the Kryptonite lock on it, it wouldn't last long down below. This is the big city, and Fencik loves it, warts and all. "It's a little strange that all my teammates live in the suburbs," he says. "But a lot of them are married, and if they have kids they have to worry about a lot of things I don't."