We can start with this: Everybody loves the Fridge.

William Perry could have been called the Car or the Shed or the Washing Machine or even the Water Heater. But he wasn’t. The Refrigerator it was—Fridge, for short—ever since his days as a 300-plus-pound All-America nosetackle at Clemson. Because it fit. Nicknamed for that most wonderful of American kitchen appliances—the one with the good stuff inside that keeps us alive and happy, and sometimes fat—Fridge in his heyday was as well-liked and cheer-inducing as that leftover piece of apple pie, wrapped in cellophane, just behind the mayonnaise and cold chicken.

“If you didn’t like Fridge,” says Mike Ditka, his former NFL coach in Chicago, “you didn’t like anybody.”

When the world champion Bears started to pull in endorsements and celebrity gigs following Super Bowl XX, in 1986, and Perry, just a rookie, hauled in more than anyone—more even than Walter Payton or Jim McMahon or even Da Capitalistic Coach himself—“it would have been easy for us to resent him,” says Dan Hampton, Perry’s defensive linemate. “But we loved Fridge.”