It was the summer of 1968, at a Bohack supermarket in Westhampton when 14-year-old Dan Jiggetts caught a glimpse of his future.
"I was packing up those brown paper bags and I looked up and saw Pete Rozelle," Jiggetts said of meeting the then-NFL commissioner. "I told him, 'I'm going to play in the NFL someday.' He just smiled politely and said, 'You never know.' "
Latest HS sports stories
Talk about foreshadowing. Not only did Jiggetts play for seven years in the NFL for the Bears after starring first at Westhampton High School and then at Harvard, but he wound up as a union representative.
"In 1982, there I was sitting across the negotiating table from Mr. Rozelle," Jiggetts said by phone from suburban Chicago, where he currently does a pre and postgame show for all Bears games on Comcast and is the weekend sports anchor for the Fox affiliate, Channel 32.
"I started all four years and I think we won a total of seven games," he said. "Not a lot of great memories there. But when my older brother Floyd died a few years ago and I came back to Long Island for a service, all the guys I played with showed up. Guys I hadn't seen in 30 years. It shows you how close we were. That turned back the clock."
As a high school All-American, Jiggetts was recruited heavily -- "I could have gone to Ohio State," he said -- but he promised his mother, who died four days after his high school graduation, that he would go to an Ivy League school. At Harvard, he captained the Crimson's first undisputed Ivy League championship team in 1975 and was voted to the league's silver anniversary All-Star team and inducted into Harvard's Varsity Hall of Fame.
Jiggetts was drafted by the Bears in 1976. and though not a starter,he played 98 games as a versatile offensive lineman.
"When you get to the NFL, you play where they ask you," Jiggetts said. "I played guard, tackle, center, tight end. We had Walter Payton and we just blocked. It was our four-tackle offense."
Jiggetts remembers the late Payton fondly. "I had the wonderful opportunity to not only play with him but be a friend and work with him after our careers were over," Jiggetts said. "It was on my radio show that he made the announcement that he had his illness. Those were tough times.
"He was a magnificent player and it was magnificent to be around him. He was always scooting the ball forward after he was tackled. He'd use those huge forearms and give defenders the hammer before they got him. A lot of defensive backs would cringe when he was coming. He would explode into them."
Jiggetts, 58, said Harvard not only prepared him for the NFL but also for the business world. He worked for a major bank in Chicago during his playing days before getting into sportscasting. In 2003, he proudly relates, he had the honor of watching his oldest daughter, Lauren, graduate from Harvard and become a news anchor and reporter for NBC.
"A professor that taught both of us said to her, 'You can't be his daughter. You're smart,' " Jiggetts said, laughing smartly.