Farewell, Concrete Charlie

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Sad news out of the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania.  NFL great Chuck Bednarik has passed away at age 89.  Bednarik was the last of the “60 minute” players, starring at both center of offense, and middle linebacker on defense, for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1949-1962.  He played on the 1950 and 1960 championship teams, and was known as a fearsome tackler.  Nicknamed “Concrete Charlie” for both his tooth-jarring hits and his off-season job selling cement (imagine an NFL player today having to work?), Bednarik most famously crushed the New York Giants’ Frank Gifford with a clean hit, knocking him out of football for a year and a half.

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Here’s a little treat where another tough guy, Sam Huff, and Bednarik, talk about the play, courtesy of NFL Films:

He also made the game-saving tackle of the Packers’ Jimmy Taylor on the final play of the 1960 NFL Championship game.  When Bednarik retired in 1962, he had his number 60 retired, and he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967.

Chuck Bednarik grew up as a son of Slovakian immigrants, who worked in the Bethlehem Steel plant in Bethlehem PA.  He starred at Penn, where he also played both ways, and even punted on occasion.  He was a three-time All-America, and was drafted Number 1 overall by Philadelphia in the 1949 NFL draft.  He was incredibly durable.  Despite being on the field for nearly every play of every game, Bednarik only missed three games in fourteen seasons.  His fingers became almost famous, as well, pointing in all directions because of injury during his college and pro career.

Bednarik fingers

For his part, Bednarik did not think much of the modern game, believing players pampered and out of shape.  He lamented that nobody played both ways any longer, and that “specialists” who substituted on certain downs and situations showed how over-coached and under-skilled the game had become.

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Chuck Bednarik was also a decorated Veteran of World War II.  He enlisted in the US Army Air Forces upon graduating High School in 1943, and flew thirty missions as a waist gunner in a B-24 with the 8th Air Force over Germany, earning three Air Medals and four battle stars.  He was a legend, an icon, the prototypical American tough guy.  His like will not come along again.  Ever.  He will be missed by those who know the value of such men.

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