ROGERS PARK — Mike Pantazis has some advice for the fan who stole and wore a Winnipeg Jets player's helmet during Wednesday night's Blackhawks game.
"He needs to definitely be humble and make sure he does his interviews," said Pantazis, a Rogers Park native. "People are going to want to hear his story because he's blessed. Something like that doesn't happen to you every day."
For those who don't know, Pantazis became instantly famous when he jumped out of the Soldier Field stands and snatched a converted extra point out of midair during a Bears game against the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 11, 1995.Pantazis was interviewed by Lynn Swann immediately after the catch, when he proudly said he was "from the North Side of Chicago" and he "played football at Sullivan High School."
Pantazis later appeared on the David Letterman show, and ESPN named his catch one of the best in history. There's even been a documentary — "Off Into Space" — made about Pantazis' incredible leap and grab.
Pantazis, 47, said the fan at Wednesday's game who swiped Adam Pardy's helmet after he was driven through the glass and into the crowd by Chicago's Brandon Bollig should expect similar reaction to his place in Chicago sports history.
"It's definitely going to open some doors for him," said Pantazis, who now lives in Skokie. "He'll be well known, but probably not as much as me because the catch I made was unbelievable. After I watched it on [the big-screen] TV, it was very impressive."
Pantazis remains involved with football. He's the head coach of the Wildwood Seminoles' mitey mite team on the Northwest Side.
Professionally, he is a sales manager for Burrows Moving Co., owns a snowplow business and plays rhythm guitar in the band Some Years Later.
Nearly two decades after Pantazis made his catch, he said people still talk to him about it.
"It has changed my life," he said. "They love me all over the country, everywhere I go."