Chuck Bednarik the hard hitting former center and linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles passed away Saturday at the age of 89. Best known for being one of the last of the players who played on both offense and defense. Bednarik played linebacker and center for thirteen years for the Eagles and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967. He won two NFL Championships (1949, 1960), was named All-Pro ten times and was selected to the NFL Pro Bowl eight times. His number sixty was retired by the Philadelphia Eagles in honor for his career with the franchise.
Born on May 1, 1925 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to parents who emigrated from Slovakia; Chuck Bednarik grew up in a local Slovakian community of working class families. He began playing football at an early age and became a star player for Bethlehem High School. After graduating, Bednarik was drafted into the U.S. Army and served as a machine gunner in a B-24 bomber in the Eighth Air Force. During his career as a machine gunner, he was awarded the Air Medal and four Oak Leaf Clusters, the European Theater Operations Medal and four Battle Stars, and the Good Conduct Medal.
After World War II ended and his military service was completed, Chuck Bednarik attended the University of Pennsylvania and played on both sides of the ball as a linebacker and center. He was named All-American three times as a Penn Quaker, won the Maxwell Award in 1948 and was named to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1969 for his phenomenal playing career at Pennsylvania. Bednarik was drafted in the First Round of the 1949 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles and the local boy made good in his first year by winning an NFL Championship when his club defeated the Los Angeles Rams 14-0.
For the next thirteen seasons, Chuck Bednarik made a name for himself in the National Football League as one of the hardest hitting players of the game, earning the moniker “Concrete Charley” (he also sold cement in the offseason). He played on both sides of the ball and missed only three games due to injury. During his playing career, Bednarik was best known for knocking out New York Giants running back Frank Gifford on a play in a 1960 meeting between the Eagles. The hit was so ferocious that it kept Gifford out of the game for over a year and a half. His tough style of play became a trademark of Bednarik that would make him a feared center and linebacker for the rest of his career.
Chuck Bednarik retired after the 1962 season and later on became a football commentator and talking head. In 1977 he co-wrote his memoirs about his life as a professional football player in the book Bednarik: Last of the Sixty-Second Men. Later in life, Bednarik became vocally critical of how the NFL has become “too soft” and how today’s players weren’t tough or conditioned enough to play on both sides of the ball. Chuck Bednarik was the last of the sixty minute football players and was one of the innovators of the game. His hard hitting style of play and toughness will always be remembered as he goes on to play in that big stadium in the sky.
For more information about Chuck Bednarik please visit Pro Football Hall of Fame, Wikipedia, Fox Sports, NFL and the College Football Hall of Fame.