ALBANY PARK — Through gumshoe work, a little bit of luck and a tip from a former drug dealer, two Chicago police officers recovered a former University of Notre Dame linebacker's 1996 Orange Bowl ring in April 2011.
Two years later, they did it again, this time finding his 1999 Gator Bowl ring.
"I worked for this stuff. You know, this was something that was a commitment, and I never thought I'd see them again," former Notre Dame linebacker Jimmy Friday said.
Officers Daniel Berg and Herminio "Tito" Flores have been partners in the Albany Park Police District since November 2010. In their short time together, they’ve racked up dozens of colorful police tales, with the ring story high on their list.
On Thanksgiving Day 2002, two of Friday's rings — awarded after the 1996 Orange Bowl and 1999 Gator Bowl — were stolen from his Lakeview apartment.
After leaving Chicago in 2008, Friday was sure he’d never see the rings again.
That’s where Berg and Flores stepped in. In April 2011, the officers had just arrested former drug dealer Gabriel Ciupeiu when they spotted a Notre Dame Orange Bowl ring with the inscription “J. Friday” on his finger.
After recovering the ring, which Ciupeiu said he won during a poker game, Berg and Flores began the process of tracking down Friday, who chose not to pursue a pro football career, ending up instead as a management consultant in Texas in 2010.
After finding Friday and giving him the good news over the phone, the officers realized there was still another problem on their hands. The former football player was missing not one, but two, rings.
And for Berg and Flores, finding just one ring wasn’t good enough.
“I probably lost a month’s worth of sleep over the two years this went on,” Berg said. “I just couldn’t get it out of my head.”
As fate had it, last month the officers again ran into Ciupeiu, who confessed that he originally had possession of both rings, but had given away the second one. He told Berg and Flores he would do whatever it took to get back Friday's Gator Bowl ring.
On June 15, the officers picked up the ring from Ciupeiu’s Albany Park home.
“He came out and handed it to Dan. We got in the car, and we just started laughing. We were like, ‘This is unbelievable,’” Flores said.
That same day, Friday received another phone call.
“For a minute, I thought it was a prank call because I never expected to see it,” Friday said. “Even after all these years, it just shows that karma comes back around.”
“To be able to close this thing out, it’s a heck of a feeling. Someone saying ‘Thank you’ to you, that’s what it’s all about,” Flores said.