The University of Pennsylvania's Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics (DRIA) has announced the formal dedication of the Bednarik statue on Saturday, Nov. 19, prior to the Quakers' football game against Cornell that kicks off at 1 p.m. The statue will be located inside Gate 2 on the North side of Franklin Field, and will be complemented by a collage honoring the history of the Philadelphia Eagles during their time playing at Franklin Field (1958-70).
The Bednarik statue will honor "Concrete Charlie," who played his college football at Franklin Field for the Quakers before embarking on a storied professional career at the same stadium for the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Bednarik statue is being done by Brian Hanlon of Hanlon Sculpture Studio in Toms River, N.J. Dubbed "New Jersey's Sculptor," Hanlon has works all over the world including the recent Shaquille O'Neal statue at Louisiana State University (LSU). Hanlon Sculpture Studio is the official sculptor of the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
"I am absolutely honored to sculpt the greatest warrior, maybe next to Smokin' Joe Frazier, in Philadelphia sports history," said Hanlon. "I think it's great that Chuck's statue will be placed at the site of his college and NFL careers. Franklin Field is the most sacred, historic athletic venue in Philadelphia."
The process to get a Bednarik statue done has been swift. In 2010, a group of Philadelphia businessmen approached the University with the aim of installing a statue of Penn's greatest all-time player and their hero, Chuck Bednarik, at Franklin Field. Since then, nearly $100,000 has been raised toward the project, bolstered by stories from Philadelphia-area media outlets as well as outlets in the Lehigh Valley, where Bednarik continues to reside in Coopersburg. Among the prominent names involved with the project are the president of NFL films, Steve Sabol; former Eagles and St. Louis Rams head coach Dick Vermeil; former Eagles players Ron Jaworski and Eddie Khayat; Bucks County State Rep. Paul Clymer; former Governor Tom Ridge; Dominic Toscani, founder of Paris Business Forms, Inc.; and Bednarik's son-in-law, Ken Safarowic.
Chuck Bednarik's Penn/Eagles Football Career
Chuck Bednarik walked onto the Penn campus midway into the 1945 season, just weeks after being discharged from the Army Air Corps. Though he had not played football for three years, his impact was immediate. Bednarik suited up and played his first week with the team. Two weeks later he was starting.
Beginning in 1946, Bednarik started at center and linebacker for three seasons. Penn was a national football power in that era, routinely drawing crowds in excess of 70,000. For most of that time the Quakers were the second-best team in the East, behind the legendary Army squads of Glenn Davis and "Doc" Blanchard.
Bednarik was named first team All-America his final two seasons at Penn. In 1948, he won the Maxwell Award and finished third in the Heisman balloting behind Doak Walker of Southern Methodist and Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice of North Carolina.
At the conclusion of the 1948 season, Bednarik became the first pick in the NFL Draft. Though the Philadelphia Eagles were the defending league champions, they earned the right to pick first when their ticket was picked from a hat through a process at the time that was known as "the bonus pick." For several years in the 1940s and 1950s, the initial pick was awarded to the winner of this lottery. The Eagles actual first pick was ninth. Without the benefit of the bonus pick the Eagles would have had no shot at the Penn star and he would have gone to one of the teams who held an early pick such as the Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers or New York Giants.
As the first choice of the 1948 draft, Bednarik received a $3,000 bonus and a salary of $7,000. He alternated starting at linebacker and center as a rookie, and the season was punctuated by the Eagles winning the 1949 league championship game, defeating the Los Angeles Rams 14-0.
The 1950s did not go nearly as well for the Eagles, as they lost more games than they won most seasons during that decade. Bednarik announced his retirement, effective at the conclusion of the 1959 season, and was even given a Farewell Day at Franklin Field. The financial concerns associated with raising what was soon to become five daughters forced a change of plans, however, and thus Chuck showed up at training camp in 1960 for what was to become the defining season of his career and one that would indelibly brand the legend of "Concrete Charlie."
After playing almost exclusively at center the past two seasons, Bednarik -- at age 35 -- would be required to start at both center and linebacker for many of the games. On November 20 of that year, in a game against the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium with first place on the line, Bednarik closed things out with the legendary tackle that many years later NFL Films would label as "The Greatest Hit in NFL History." With the Giants driving late in the fourth quarter for a potential game-tying touchdown, Frank Gifford turned upfield after catching the ball on a crossing pattern. Before he could take another step, Bednarik met him shoulder to chest and separated the receiver from the ball. The Sports Illustrated picture of Bednarik standing over the prone Gifford has become one the iconic sports photos of all time.
The Eagles would go on to face the Green Bay Packers in the championship game at Franklin Field, where they handed Vince Lombardi the only postseason loss of his brilliant coaching career. Playing center and linebacker, Bednarik was on the field for every snap of the ball, and the game ended with him sitting atop Jim Taylor nine yards from the end zone as the final seconds ticked off the scoreboard clock. Bednarik played 58 minutes, sitting out only the kickoffs. He finished the game with 12 tackles and a fumble recovery, and he knocked Paul Hornung out of the game with a jarring third-quarter tackle.
Bednarik retired following the 1962 season, concluding a 14-year career in which he missed only three games due to injury. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, his first year of eligibility.