|Born||May 1 1925in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania|
|NFL Draft||1949 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1|
|Stats at NFL.com|
|Career highlights and awards|
Charles Philip Bednarik (born May 1, 1925) is a former professional American football player, known as one of the most devastating tacklers in the history of football and the last two-way player in the National Football League. A Slovak American from the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania, he is perhaps best remembered for a tackle on the New York Giants' Frank Gifford, then a star running back, that knocked Gifford out of professional football for a year and a half, and shortened Gifford's playing career.
Bednarik currently resides in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, in the Lehigh Valley. His great-nephew, Adam Bednarik, was the starting quarterback at West Virginia University, before suffering an injury in 2005 that opened the door for fellow freshman Pat White, who never relinquished the starting position.
Early life, military service and college career
His parents emigrated in 1920 from Široké, a village in eastern Slovakia, for work, settling in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and working for Bethlehem Steel. Their son Charles was born in 1925. He attended school at SS. Cyril & Methodius in Bethlehem, which was a Slovak parochial school with Slovak the language of instruction.
Bednarik began playing football in Bethlehem. He played for Bethlehem's Liberty High School.
Following his graduation from high school, he entered the United States Army Air Forces and served as a B-24 waist-gunner with the Eighth Air Force. He flew on 30 combat missions over Germany and was highly decorated. After the final mission, he thanked God for surviving and said he was never going to fly again, though he flew many times afterwards.
Bednarik subsequently attended the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he was a 60-minute man, excelling as both center and linebacker, as well as occasional punter. He was a three-time All-American, and was elected a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, as were two of his teammates on the 1947 squad—tackle George Savitsky and tailback Tony Minisi—and his coach, George Munger. At Penn, he also was third in Heisman Trophy voting in 1948 and won the Maxwell Award that year.
Pro Football career
Bednarik was the first player drafted in the 1949 NFL Draft, by the Philadelphia Eagles, starring on both offense (as a center) and defense (as a linebacker). He was a member of the Eagles' NFL Championship teams in 1949 and 1960. In the 1960 NFL Championship Game, Bednarik, the last Eagle between Green Bay's Jim Taylor and the end zone, tackled Taylor on the final play of the game at the Eagles' eight yard line, and remained atop Taylor as the final seconds ticked off the clock, ensuring the Packers could not run another play and preserving a 17-13 Eagles victory.
A tough and highly effective tackler, Bednarik is perhaps best known for knocking Frank Gifford of the New York Giants out of football for over 18 months, with one of the most famous tackles in NFL history, in 1960. Bednarik had a famous quarrel with Chuck Noll, who once, as a player for the Cleveland Browns, smashed him in the face during a fourth-down punting play.
Bednarik proved extremely durable, missing just three games in his 14 seasons. He was named All-Pro eight times, and was the last of the NFL's "Sixty-Minute Men," players who played both offense and defense on a regular basis.
Bednarik's nickname, "Concrete Charlie," originated from his off-season career as a concrete salesman for the Warner Company, not (contrary to popular belief) from his reputation as a ferocious tackler. Nonetheless, sportswriter Hugh Brown of The Bulletin in Philadelphia, credited with bestowing the nickname, remarked that Bednarik "is as hard as the concrete he sells."
Bednarik served as an analyst on the HBO program Inside The NFL for its inaugural season in 1977-78.
In 1999, he was ranked number 54 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. This made him the highest-ranking player to have spent his entire career with the Eagles, the highest-ranking offensive center and the eighth-ranked linebacker in all of professional football.
In 2010, Bednarik was ranked number 35 on the NFL Network's "The Top 100: NFL's Greatest Players". Ranked one spot ahead of Bednarik at number 34 was Deion Sanders, a player for whom Bednarik has held open contempt in regards to being a two-way player. Bednarik was not the highest placed Eagle on the NFL Network's list. That distinction was held by Reggie White at number 7.
Opinions on current NFL players
Bednarik has been an outspoken, even bitter critic of today's NFL players for playing on only one side of the ball, calling them "pussyfoots", noting that they "suck air after five plays" and that they "couldn't tackle my wife Emma". He even criticized Troy Brown of the New England Patriots and Deion Sanders of the Dallas Cowboys, two players who also have played both offense and defense, because their positions as a wide receiver and cornerback didn't require as much contact as the center and linebacker positions that Bednarik played.
Relationship with the Eagles
Bednarik's former Eagles number, 60, has been retired by the Eagles in honor of his achievements with the team and is one of only seven numbers retired in the history of the franchise.
When the Eagles established their Honor Roll in 1987, Bednarik was one of the first class of inductees. He attended reunions for the 25th anniversary of the 1960 NFL Championship team in 1985 and the 40th anniversary of the 1948-49 NFL Championship team in 1988 (though he had not played for the 1948 team), held in pregame ceremonies at Veterans Stadium.
Bednarik quarreled with current Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie in 1996. Lurie refused to buy 100 copies of Bednarik's new book for $15 each for the entire team, as that was against NFL rules, and that grudge carried over into the Eagles' most recent Super Bowl appearance in 2005, when he openly rooted against his former team. He has been a consistent critic of several league issues, including his pension, today's salaries, and one-way players.
During Eagles training camp in the summer of 2006, Bednarik and the Eagles reconciled, seemingly ending the feud between Bednarik and Lurie. However, at the same time, Bednarik made disparaging remarks regarding Reggie White, an Eagle fan favorite, leading to a somewhat lukewarm reception of the reconciliation by Eagles' fans. However, in the August 4 edition of Allentown's Morning Call newspaper, it was reported that Bednarik apologized, stating he had been confused, and meant to make the statement about former Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens.
On March 26, 2011, Bednarik was reportedly taken to St. Luke's Hospital in Bethlehem. Hospital spokesmen stated that he was "in serious condition", but did not give any further details. However, the next day it was announced that he was doing fine and had no pre-existing medical conditions. His son-in-law stated that he had passed out from shortness of breath and low blood pressure, but did not suffer a heart attack or anything related and was expected to make a full recovery.
- Chuck Bednarik Award (awarded annually in Bednarik's honor to the Best Collegiate Defensive Player.)
- Longman, Jere. "Eagles’ 1960 Victory Was an N.F.L. Turning Point", The New York Times, January 6, 2011. Accessed January 6, 2011.
- "Bednarik has no thanks for Reggie White's memory ** 2006 Eagles Training Camp", The Morning Call. Retrieved on 10 January 2010.
- Jones, Gordie. "Bednarik: I meant T.O., not Reggie", The Morning Call. Retrieved on 10 January 2010.
- Pro Football Hall of Fame: Chuck Bednarik profile.
- Chuck Bednarik at the Pennsylvania Football News All-Century Team.
- Named captain of the Cold, Hard Football Facts.com "All-Time 11" (2006)
- Gallery of Chuck Bednarik's football cards