December 10, 2013 in City

Fan returns stolen ring to former NFL champion

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A discovery in an aluminum can destined for the recycling bin ended months of worry for a former NFL champion, who lost a treasured memento in a Spokane house burglary in summer 2012.

A commemorative ring belonging to Seattle University alumnus Thornton Humphries was turned over to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office on Monday.

“This is the greatest Christmas present I could ever get,” said Humphries’ son Stefan, himself a standout offensive lineman on the 1986 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears.

The elder Humphries was a reserve center on the Seattle U team that stood toe-to-toe with Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky Wildcats in the 1958 national college basketball championship.

The heirloom was stolen from Stefan Humphries’ home in Spokane in June 2012, along with a Super Bowl ring, Rose Bowl ring and senior class ring from the University of Michigan. While the other tokens have been returned, Stefan Humphries was considering replacing the ring given to his father, who played with future NBA superstar forward Elgin Baylor during Seattle University’s improbable run to the championship.

Stefan Humphries was present at the presentation of the ring, a massive multigemmed memento with a silver “S” inset in a crimson background, given when the runner-up squad was inducted into the university’s hall of fame a few years ago.

“It was such a wonderful experience to be a part of that,” said Stefan Humphries, who was honored for his own athletic accomplishments at the White House in 2011.

Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputy Craig Chamberlin confirmed the authenticity of the ring Monday. Its discovery is credited to an ardent, lifelong Chicago Bears fan.

That fan, April Stevens, first spied the ring at a football watch party over the weekend. A friend of a friend was showing the ring to fans, saying it had been discovered inside an aluminum can the man was planning to recycle after collecting it in an apartment he was cleaning. The last name on the ring was familiar to Stevens, who said she grew up cheering for the Bears and Cubs in Wrigleyville near the famed baseball stadium.

“Of course I knew the name Humphries,” Stevens said, recalling the offensive lineman who played drums in the now-iconic “Super Bowl Shuffle” video performed by the Bears squad that capped a 15-1 season during the fall of 1985 with a drubbing of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX.

“I knew Thornton wasn’t quite right.”

She went home and did some online digging, discovering the link between the two Humphrieses through previous media coverage of the 2012 burglary. On Sunday, she phoned and visited friends to track down the ring, eventually persuading the finder of the ring to hand it over so it could be returned to one of her sports heroes.

“What’s right is right,” Stevens said.

Stevens said she felt compelled to get the ring back to the Humphries family in part because she’d lost her husband and son in recent years.

“I know that if somebody had something of theirs, I would want it,” Stevens said.

Thornton Humphries lives in Florida, and his son said he’d be sharing the news with him soon.

“He’s a character,” Stefan Humphries said from his medical practice near Reno, Nev., where he moved from Spokane last year. “I love him dearly.”

The former NFL lineman and former director of St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute said Stevens’ actions should serve as a lesson during the season of giving.

“I’m very thankful that there are individuals out there who respect the belongings of other people,” he said.

Stevens called Humphries to give the former Chicago Bear the good news. Having followed him for so many years on television, the call felt natural, Stevens said.

“He was in my home so much, it felt like talking to family.”

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