Bears' Emery: Daughter Taught Him Ultimate Lesson in Teamwork

The first seizure happened nearly 24 years ago. Beth Emery jumped out of bed at the sound of her daughter April repeatedly hitting a bedroom dresser with her hand. When Beth and Phil Emery found their daughter she was blue.

Over the next 24 years, the seizures have increased, so have the medications and operations.

"Our family has survived the ordeal of having a child that was having those kinds of struggles" Bears General Manager Phil Emery said. "She brought us closer together -- it's the only way a good team survives."

Thirty years in football as a coach and scout and it took coming home to a daughter battling epilepsy to teach him the ultimate lesson in teamwork--giving up oneself for the betterment of a group.

"My daughter retaught me that," Emery admitted in an interview with NBC Chicago.

That selflessness is what Emery brings to the Chicago Bears. It's seen in his well thought-out press conferences. This isn't Phil Emery's team, this is Chicago's team.

"It's really simple for me," he said. "It's their team, they have ownership of it. I'm a steward."

Emery gets emotional recalling how his wife Beth takes on the bulk of the burden to care for their daughter, who he refers to as "Miss April". But it's the kind of teamwork he is reminded that comes with succeeding.

At 54 years old he's a renaissance GM in the old school world of the National Football League. While baseball has its Theo Epsteins and sabermetrics, hockey is seeing Stan Bowman of the Blackhawks' new world thinking of Corsi and Fenwick stats, but Emery is a renaissance thinker in the NFL.

He uses anlaytics to explain why he drafted a quarterback or a punter in the 6th round of the draft. But when it comes to Miss April, Emery is old school.

They treasure "cruising" together -- going on long car rides and listening to the radio. Because her brain is "hot", there is always abnormal activity going. Seizures can be brought on by "flashes" from a tree branch shadow in the sun to tv and computer screens. So the Emerys value their time together reading.

"Before she started having seizures she gained the ability to read and write," Emery said, calling it a gift. "She wakes up every morning reading the Chicago paper, she loves to read about Chicago sports and the Chicago Bears."

And when it comes to the Bears, Emery has to remember to keep his emotions in check. Whether evaluating a potential draft pick or releasing a Hall of Famer to be in Brian Urlacher or Lovie Smith after a 10-6 season as head coach.

"We're all human and the more you fall in love with any one individual in the process, the more your mind turns and twists on you," said Emery. "You have to take a step back and say who is he for the Chicago Bears, not who is he for Phil Emery."

And for that selflessness he thanks his daughter, Miss April. He believes that is how the Bears can succeed in September, December and beyond.

Emery' says his passion for football is only matched by his passion to help find a cure for epilepsy. For more information contact

Contact Us