Dan Hampton was a rookie in 1979, coming to the Bears in what would be Doug Buffone’s last year in the NFL. By that time, Buffone was no longer a starting linebacker and Hampton wasn’t seeing Buffone in anything near the latter’s prime.
But Hampton, inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002, saw the essential Doug Buffone, in more ways than one.
“When I got here in 1979, Doug was ‘The Dos Equis Man,’ Hampton said, laughing. “You know: ‘Stay thirsty, my friend.’ He had the nightclubs, all the stuff, and he was bigger than life.
“He was so great to play with. In the  game against the New England Patriots, he was thrust into the starting middle linebacker position because of the illness to Tom Hicks.
“Doug’d been up night, and there he was in the locker room before the game, chain-smoking. He was in his 14th year and you don’t expect to be dropped into the middle-linebacker position all of a sudden.
“And New England had that running back, Sam ‘Bam’ Cunningham, who was a 300-pound running back. Not only did Doug play great – he ran a fake punt as captain of the punt team in that game, and he intercepted two passes, which broke Butkus’ all-time record for linebacker.
“He was the man. He was bigger than life.”
Hampton knew Buffone was dealing with some health concerns over the past couple years and his strongest feelings on Monday centered on those left behind.
“I feel just horrible for [Buffone’s wife] Dana and the kids,” Hampton said. “Doug was a big part of the world of the Chicago Bears.”
Hampton shares the passion that Buffone, Ed O’Bradovich and others feel about their former team. “But with Doug, as much as he loved the Bears, you always knew it wasn’t a condemnation of the Bears,” Hampton said. “It was a desperate plea for them to find a way as a football team. It was never ill will.
“He was a fine, fine human being, and it was a joy to have been able to play even one year with Doug. He will sorely be missed. He was just a fine, fine man. He’s a Chicago icon. We’re all the richer for having known him.”