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Shuffled into Medicine
by Damian Tromerhauser
Aug 15, 2012 | 7478 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Stefan Humphries was an offensive lineman on the 1985 NFL champion Chicago Bears. Now he is a Director of Renown’s Rehabilitation Hospital.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Stefan Humphries was an offensive lineman on the 1985 NFL champion Chicago Bears. Now he is a Director of Renown’s Rehabilitation Hospital.
Walking into a room, Stefan Humphries’ stature calls immediate attention to his presence. His large frame seems intimidating, but his demeanor suggests otherwise. He has a short gait and speaks in a soft tone that causes those listening to lean forward in order to hear his good-natured teasing. And he’s humble, even though he has more than a good share of reasons to brag.

Humphries is the Medical Director at Renown Rehabilitation Hospital, but his success should not come as a surprise based on the accomplishments on the rest of his resume.

Graduating as Valedictorian of his 1980 class from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Humphries was tabbed as ‘The Can’t Miss Kid’ by Sports Illustrated in respect to his academics as well as his prowess on the football field.

Humphries lived up to that billing. After four years at the University of Michigan, in which he was named an Academic All-American twice, All-Big Ten twice, Associated Press First Team All-American his senior year, and a National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame Scholar, Humphries was selected by the Chicago Bears in the third round of the 1984 NFL draft. Securing the offensive line as a guard, Humphries was a member of the 1985 Bears Super Bowl championship winner, a team many consider one of the greatest of all time.

Most people would consider the chance to play in the NFL, and win a Super Bowl ring, a dream come true, but Humphries has always aspired to better the lives of others.

“As a kid, I used to watch a couple television shows about doctors and that’s where I first started to think that maybe that’s what I wanted to do,” he said. “I wanted to help people. Of course on television, all the patients do well. Everybody gets better. That’s where it started. I also have an older sister who ended up going into medicine and she and I are kind of kindred spirits. She also was a mentor for me. So I really was following in her footsteps.”

It is almost as though Humphries was predestined to become a doctor. While it may have been watching physicians on TV, along with the guidance of his sister that initially interested Humphries in the medical field, his mother, Maud, actually named him after a doctor on a soap opera called ‘Young Dr. Malone.’ For Humphries, football was merely a hobby compared to his dedication to medicine.

With the goal of becoming a doctor set in stone since he was a youngster, Humphries’ venture into the NFL was a short diversion from the ultimate aim.

“It was a detour,” Humphries said. “It really was. I would say that what I’m doing right now is fulfilling a life-long dream. Playing football wasn’t necessarily a life-long dream. It was a passion, but it wasn’t a life-long dream. I had this dream as a kid of becoming a doctor and helping people and making a difference in people’s lives.

“I just feel fortunate to have had the ability to realize that dream. On the way, I did get sidetracked by playing professional football and I played for one of the greatest teams that ever played. I thank the man upstairs for that. I just feel really lucky that I was able to have that experience in my life. Now I’m fulfilling my life-long dream and continuing to try to make a difference in the lives of my patients.”

While Humphries tenure in the NFL lasted a short five years, the allure of the game that he began playing as a child still appeals to him.

“If I could still be playing right now, I’d be playing,” Humphries said. “You never really get it out of your system. It’s always there. You can talk to folks who’ve played high school football, collegiate football, pro football, there’s something about playing a team sport where you’re depending on the guy next to you like he’s your brother. And the sense of accomplishment as a team is really analogous to life. Any job that we have whether it’s working as a reporter or as a physician, we’re all working within the other individuals.

“Football is a sport that I love. I grew up playing football. I lived in a neighborhood where we would actually challenge the opposing neighborhood. One of my friend’s fathers actually built a football field. It was a field that he kept groomed for us to play on, so I mean this was big stuff. We would challenge the other neighborhood and they’d come and we’d play for three hours. I loved contact. I loved playing on a team. Football was my sport.”

One of the reasons the draw of the game still enthralls Humphries is the memories and friendships that were created, particularly with the ’85 Bears.

“I always look back on my life and I’ve lived a charmed life. Thinking about things and having the ability to play professional football and having played for that team, it definitely is one of the highlights of my football career,” Humphries said. “That team was pretty unique and when we get together, it’s just like yesterday. The jokes and the laughter and the camaraderie, it’s like we didn’t miss a beat over the last 20 something years. That was a close team. To win the Super Bowl, you really have to be a special team. All those teams that have won a Super Bowl in the past have come together and put all differences aside, all personal goals aside and played as a team and that’s what we did. That team was a special team and there are very fond memories I will never forget.”

Humphries will always carry those memories of his playing days, but now he is enjoying his true calling. On the football field, Humphries stood as a daunting pillar in the trenches of the gridiron. Now he represents a beacon of light for patients lost in a darkness of despair, and he’d have it no other way.

“I still love football. It will always be one of my passions, but I’m very passionate about what I do right now as well,” Humphries said. “I’m able to work with a patient with a team of clinicians. These patients have experienced catastrophic injury and come to us significantly debilitated and our goal is to restore a faith in living. I just am so impressed with how phenomenal the human spirit is as it’s trying to recover from something so catastrophic. What I’ve seen are close to miracles happening in this setting. I’ve seen miracles happen in most of the places that I’ve worked at and how can you not be passionate about making that kind of difference in someone’s life.”

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