Hundreds of mourners filled the main floor and balcony of the church for the closed-casket ceremony, swaying to gospel songs of mourning and praise. His family was at the front of the church, weeping as the ceremony proceeded.
For two occasionally raucous hours, family, friends and teammates from the Bears celebrated the shortened life of Dave Duerson.
Teammate Otis Wilson, his voice initially weak and halting, thanked God for his friendship with Duerson. He told Duerson's family in the front pews they could turn for support to the Bears, including those from the 1985 Super Bowl team, who were gathered in the audience.
"Dave might not be here. But you've got a lot of brothers over there," he said, pointing to a group of players.
Duerson's son, Brock, talked of plans to start a foundation to aid athletes dealing with brain injuries and mental illness.
"Under unusual circumstances, my dad decided to donate his brain, and I'm proud," he said.
Rev. Jesse Jackson praised Duerson as a "winner" who had the presence of mind to preserve his brain for scientific study that could protect future generations of players.
"He mastered the Super Bowl of life," Jackson said.
Among the former Bears spotted entering the church during the hour before the service were Mike Singletary, Leslie Frazier, Jim Covert, Shaun Gayle, Brian Baschnagel, Otis Wilson, Dennis McKinnon, Mike Hartenstine, Jim Morrissey, Glen Kozlowski, Keith Van Horne, Jim Osborne, James "Big Cat" Williams and Emery Moorhead. Former Bears running backs coach Johnny Roland was also in attendance.Duerson stunned friends and family when he committed suicide Feb. 18 in his condo in Miami.
"It has been a tough week," Singletary said.
"I am still trying to make sense of this," Covert said.
By just before the service was to start at 11 a.m., the parking lot for Antioch, 6248 S. Stewart Ave., was full and people were being directed to another nearby lot.
Mourners were converging on the church from all directions and a line of people entering the church stretched out the firstname.lastname@example.org