Penn Athletics Mourns Passing of Chuck Bednarik

The University of Pennsylvania and Penn Athletics are mourning the death of Chuck Bednarik, which was announced Saturday morning. He was 89 years of age.

By the time Bednarik entered Penn in 1945, he was already 20 years old and had flown 30 combat missions over Germany as a gunner. He was a 60-minute man for the Quakers, excelling as both center and linebacker, as well as occasional punter. He was a three-time All-America, 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. Bednarik graduated from Penn in 1949.

Bednarik was inducted into the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame as part of its Inaugural Class in 1996. A statue of Bednarik from his Eagles days sits inside the North concourse of Franklin Field, along with a mural signifying the Eagles’ great moments at Franklin Field including the 1960 NFL championship-game win.

“It is heartbreaking to hear of the loss of Chuck this morning,” said Penn’s current George A. Munger Head Coach of Football, Ray Priore. “He was not only one of Penn’s all-time best, but one of the greatest football players to ever play the game. More importantly, he was held in the same regard off the field and will be missed by so many. I know the entire Penn community and football world is deeply saddened by this loss, and all our thoughts are with his family at this time.”

Born May 1, 1925, Charles Philip Bednarik was 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 played for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1949 through 1962 and, upon retirement, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967 (his first year of eligibility). He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame two years later.

His parents emigrated from Široké, a village in eastern Slovakia, in 1920 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 thirty 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.

After his Penn 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 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’ 8-yard line, and remained atop Taylor as the final seconds ticked off the clock, ensuring the Packers could not run another play. The Eagles won that game 17-13.

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 eighteen 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 fourteen 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."

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.

Bednarik career highlights and awards
* 8-time Pro Bowl selection (1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1960)
* 10-time All-Pro selection (1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1960, 1961)
* NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time Team
* NFL 1950s All-Decade Team
* 1953 Pro Bowl MVP
* 1948 Maxwell Award
* Philadelphia Eagles Honor Roll
* Philadelphia Eagles #60 Retired
* Inaugural Class member of Penn Athletics Hall of Fame (1996)
* 2010 Walter Camp Football Foundation “Distinguished American” Award recipient