Bednarik Named Distinguished American of the Year

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Chuck Bednarik, an All-America selection as a member of the University of Pennsylvania football team and member of the Penn Athletics, College Football and NFL Hall of Fame is the 2010 recipient of the Walter Camp Football Foundation “Distinguished American” Award. Bednarik, as well as all of the major award winners, and members of the 2010 Walter Camp All-America team, were honored at the organization’s 44th annual national awards banquet on Saturday at the Yale University Commons in New Haven.

The Walter Camp “Distinguished American” award is presented each year to an individual who has utilized his or her talents to attain great success in business, private life or public service and who may have accomplished that which no other has done. He or she may have a record of dedication to mankind that should not pass unrecognized and a life that has been dedicated to the preservation of the American ideal. The recipient need not have participated in football but must be one who understands its lesson of self-denial, cooperation and teamwork, and one who is a person of honesty, integrity and dedication. He or she must be a leader, an innovator, even a pioneer, who has reached a degree of excellence that distinguishes him or her from contemporaries, as well as someone who lives within the principles of Walter Camp.

“Chuck Bednarik has had an impressive record of excellence in his life which makes him a worthy recipient of this honor,” Foundation president Alphonse Paolillo, Jr. said. “His passion and dedication to this country and to the great sport of football are second to none.”

Past recipients of the Walter Camp Distinguished American honor include nationally-respected sportscasters Pat Summerall (2004) and Keith Jackson (1995), all-purpose television personality Regis Philbin (2003), NBC Sports Executive Dick Ebersol (1996), former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue (1994), world-renowned entertainer Bob Hope (1985), former college coach Eddie Robinson (1982) and last year’s recipient, ABC News’ Good Morning America host Robin Roberts.

A native of Bethelhem, Pa., Bednarik played football for Liberty High School. Following graduation, he entered the U.S. Army Air Forces and served as a B-24 waist-gunner with the Eighth Air Force and flew thirty combat missions over Germany. Following his military service, Bednarik attended the University of Pennsylvania and was a two-time Walter Camp All-America selection (1947 and 1948) as a center and linebacker. In 1948, Bednarik placed third in the Heisman Trophy voting and won the Maxwell Award.

Bednarik was the No. 1 overall pick in the 1949 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. He proceeded to play 14 seasons for the Eagles, starting at offensive center and linebacker as one of the final two-way players in the NFL. Highly durable, Bednarik missed just three games in those 14 seasons and was nicknamed “Concrete Charlie.” He was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and was a 10-time All-Pro honoree. Bednarik led the Eagles to the 1960 NFL championship where they defeated the Green Bay Packers, 17-13, for their only NFL title. He retired following the 1962 season and his No. 60 Eagles uniform is now retired.

Bednarik was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967 (his first year of eligibility) and was a member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. Today, the Chuck Bednarik Award is presented to the college defensive player of the year by the Maxwell Football Club. Bednarik was also inducted into the University of Pennsylvania's first Hall of Fame class in 1996.

Walter Camp, “The Father of American football,” first selected an All-America team in 1889. Camp – a former Yale University athlete and football coach – is also credited with developing play from scrimmage, set plays, the numerical assessment of goals and tries and the restriction of play to eleven men per side. The Walter Camp Football Foundation – a New Haven-based all-volunteer group – was founded in 1967 to perpetuate the ideals of Camp and to continue the tradition of selecting annually an All-America team and honoring deserving individuals.

Walter Camp Distinguished American Recipients
2010 - Chuck Bednarik, Penn
2009 - Robin Roberts, Southeastern Louisiana
2008 - Len Dawson, Purdue
2007 - Frank Broyles, Georgia Tech
2006 - Dick Vermeil, San Jose State
2005 - Arthur Blank, Babson
2004 - Pat Summerall, Arkansas
2003 - Bill Walsh, San Jose State
2002 - Regis Philbin, Notre Dame
2001 - New York City Police, Fire, and Emergency Medical Service Personnel
2000 - Gene Upshaw, Texas A&I
1999 - Bo Schembechler, Miami (Ohio)
1998 - Steve Young, Brigham Young
1997 - Steve Largent, Tulsa
1996 - Dick Ebersol, Yale
1995 - Keith Jackson, Washington State
1994 - Paul Tagliabue, Georgetown
1993 - Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C.
1992 - Carm Cozza, Miami (Ohio)/Yale
1991 - Alexander Kroll, Rutgers
1990 - Tex Schramm, Texas
1989 - Richard Kazmaier, Princeton
1989 - Burt Reynolds, Florida State
1988 - Y.A. Tittle, Louisiana State
1987 - Weeb Ewbank, Miami (Ohio)
1986 - Tom Landry, Texas
1985 - Bob Hope
1984 - Maj. Gen. Bill Carpenter, Army
1983 - Tom Harmon, Michigan
1982 - Eddie Robinson, Grambling State
1981 - Harold "Red" Grange, Illinois
1980 - Alexander Haig, Army
1980 - George Halas, Illinois
1979 - David "Sonny" Werblin, Rutgers
1978 - James Crowley, Notre Dame