Saturday, March 21, 2015
Philadelphia Eagles Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker and center Chuck Bednarik died early Saturday morning following a brief illness at an assisted living facility in Richland, Pennsylvania, the team announced. He was 89.
One of the last two-way players in the NFL, Bednarik played a franchise-record 14 seasons with the Eagles from 1949-1962 and was part of two NFL Championship squads in 1949 and 1960.
"With the passing of Chuck Bednarik, the Eagles and our fans have lost a legend," said Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie in a statement. "Philadelphia fans grow up expecting toughness, all-out effort and a workmanlike attitude from this team and so much of that image has its roots in the way Chuck played the game. He was a Hall of Famer, a champion and an all-time Eagle. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones during this time."
Bednarik had arrived with the Eagles as the NFL's first overall draft pick in 1949 after two All-American seasons at the University of Pennsylvania.
A native of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Bednarik made eight Pro Bowls and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, his first year of eligibility. His No. 60 jersey is one of nine numbers to be retired by the Eagles. He played in 169 career games, notching 20 interceptions on defense, including one returned for a touchdown.
"I have had the opportunity to spend time with Chuck Bednarik, who is truly one of the most unique players that this game has ever seen," said Eagles coach Chip Kelly. "The foundation of this organization and this league is built on the backs of past greats, with Chuck at the forefront.
"The way he played the game with an endless passion and tenacity helped establish the standard of excellence that this organization stands for; one that we strive to achieve each and every day."
Known as one of the most devastating tacklers and toughest players in the NFL, Bednarik earned the nickname "Concrete Charlie" from his offseason job as a concrete salesman for the Warner Company. He was a gunner on a B-24 in World War II before his football career.
A well-traveled iconic photograph of Bednarik truimphal over the body of New York Giants back Frank Gifford underscores the man's toughness and ruthlessness on the gridiron. Gifford's injuries were so great from the hit that he had to miss the entire 1961 season while recovering.