THE ENFORCERS | Super Bowl winner Shaun Gayle assists with secondary

April 16, 2007
BY KIM JANSSEN Daily Southtown

Puffing on a cigarette through the bars of his face mask, a burly patrolman looked on as teammates shivered and traded jokes.

A lanky beat cop with a hooded sweat shirt stuffed between his pads and his jersey chased a coach's young son before wrapping him up at the 15-yard line and tackling him with mock ferocity. "Grrrr!" he shouted.

During this recent practice at St. Ignatius College Prep, the Enforcers -- a year-old football team comprised of Chicago Police officers -- looked more like high school kids than cops, more like cops than athletes.

But at a time when the Chicago Police Department is reeling under a series of brutality scandals, the Enforcers are a genuine feel-good story.

It's their first season in the National Public Safety Football League, and they're building morale and giving Chicagoans alienated from their police department and professional sports something to relate to, said Shaun Gayle, a captain on the Super Bowl-winning 1985 Bears who is helping coach the Enforcers secondary.

"It's a great atmosphere here -- like college football, the way college used to be," he said. "You can't compare the jobs football players and police do, but the camaraderie [officers] have means they are used to pulling in the same direction, and it's easier to focus."

Game against NYPD
Gayle said the level of play surprised him when he got involved with the Enforcers earlier this year.

"The skill levels are -- mixed," laughed 29-year-old defensive tackle Brendan Gill, as he surveyed his teammates.

With his grizzly ginger beard and imposing 6-foot-3 frame, Gill -- a tactical officer in the downtown Central District who lives on the Southwest Side -- looks more like a footballer than most on the team.

"What is definitely there is the desire -- all of these guys are paying $500 each to play," he said.

Gill, who played for Mount Carmel High School and was a three-year starter at St. Ambrose, is -- along with defensive end and former Western Illinois starter Jemal King and Benedictine College alum and center John Curry -- one of the more experienced players on the team.

The Enforcers went 2-1 last season, but were not eligible for NPSFL play. On Saturday, the Enforcers held the Los Angeles Heat, a team of firefighters, scoreless in the first half but lost 6-0.

On April 21, the Enforcers take on the NYPD Finest. Soldier Field will host a game against the Philadelphia Blue Flame on May 6, while the regular season ends with a game against the Orange County Lawmen in Santa Ana, Calif., on May 19.

Ticket sales from all of the games will go to charity. For more details, log on to contact.htm.