When he tells the story now, some eight years later, Matt Bowen doesn't even flinch. Yet there he was eight years ago, a member of the Packers on the eve of his first start against his hometown Bears, tossing and turning at the Packers' team hotel in Champaign, Ill.
He had signed with the Packers the year before. The moment he put on the green and yellow for the first time, everything changed.
"As soon as I got there, I wanted the Bears to lose so bad," Bowen said. "I don't know what it was. But you put on that helmet, you put on that jersey and you just transform. I wanted to win and I wanted to see the Bears lose every week."
Bowen played against the Bears once in his first season with the Packers, but that was in Green Bay. And that was as a backup. Although the 2002 game wasn't played at Soldier Field, which was undergoing renovations at the time, it was still in Illinois. At the stadium the Bears were temporarily calling home. The stands would be filled with people he grew up with. He was starting. And it was "Monday Night Football" -- the entire football nation would be watching.
"I was so, so, so excited," Bowen said. "I can't even put it into words how much that game meant to me." It meant so much that, when Bowen rolled over at some point around 3 a.m., he realized his sheets were soaking wet.
"I had completely pissed my bed like a 2-year-old," he said. "And then I started thinking, 'Now what the hell am I going to do?'"
He didn't want to wake Kampman, his roommate. So Bowen quietly stripped his bed, wrapped the sheets in a towel and bundled them up. Then, with nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist, he quickly headed outside to throw the sheets in the hotel trash bin so no one would find out what had happened. But there was a problem: The door locked behind him.
"And of course I didn't have my key," Bowen said. "So I walked into the front entrance -- with this shaved head, wearing just a towel -- and tried to tell them that I was Matt Bowen. I played for the Packers."
But no one believed him. For about 10 minutes, Bowen and the overnight front desk clerk went back and forth, with the strong safety reciting his Social Security number, Kampman's name, anything he could think of to get back in his room before someone spotted him half-naked in the hotel lobby. Eventually, the clerk believed Bowen and let him back into his room, where he flipped his mattress over and went back to sleep.
"The next morning, Kampman is like, 'What happened to your sheets?'" Bowen said. "I didn't know what to say. I made something up that I spilled coffee or whatever. I don't think he believed me."
The Packers beat the Bears 34-21 that night thanks to a 300-yard, three-touchdown performance from Favre. Bowen said he had a few key pass breakups in the game but mostly remembers a pass-interference call that went against him in the end zone.
"I've never been more excited about winning a game in my life," he said. "I just wanted to win so bad. And as far as what happened the night before, the bottom line is that's how passionate I was about that game. I couldn't wait to get on that field and play in that game against my hometown team."
Since retiring in 2006 after a seven-year NFL career, Bowen returned to Chicago, where he earned his master's degree and helped launch The National Football Post. He also writes from a player's perspective for the Chicago Tribune. But on Sunday, his heart will lie with the Packers.
"I'm kind of split on the two teams. I really am," he said. "But more of my allegiance goes to Green Bay because I wore that helmet. I was part of that incredible tradition."
Bowen believes Sunday's game is the biggest sporting event in Chicago since Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series between the Cubs and Florida Marlins. As for a prediction, Bowen believes the Bears will prevail 23-17, based on their superior special teams as well as their ability to stop the run and force the Green Bay offense to be one-dimensional.
"It's tough," he said. "My heart will be pulling for the Packers, but my head tells me it's going to be the Bears. I guess we'll see."