March, 20 2023
Chuck Bednarik came to the University of Pennsylvania fresh from the aerial battles of the Second World War. Bednarik flew on 30 combat missions over Germany as a B-24 waist gunner. He recounted being scared every time but “felt it was my duty.” The most frightening mission he recalled was a refueling operation which required his crew to land and take off ten miles behind enemy lines.
Football no doubt proved much easier. Bednarik played center and linebacker for the Quakers from 1945-48, earning the nickname “Concrete Charlie.” The Quakers were a top ten program in Bednarik’s freshmen and junior years, finishing 7-0-1 in 1947. The only blemish was a 7-7 tie with Army at Franklin Field before 80,000 spectators. Earlier in the season Bednarik proved just how concrete tough he could be. He was hospitalized with hemorrhages following a 34-14 victory over Columbia but returned to finish out the season as a consensus All-American and finished seventh in the Heisman voting. The following year he was again a consensus All-American, finished third in the Heisman voting and won the Maxwell Award.
Bednarik did not need to switch addresses when he moved on to professional football. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1949 and for the next fourteen years he continued to play 60 minutes as a center and linebacker. He won a title with the Eagles in his rookie season and was named All-NFL for eight consecutive seasons. As an elder statesman in 1960, Bednarik keyed the Eagles to another title, making the game-ending tackle during their 17-13 victory over Green Bay.
Honors continued his way after his playing career ended. In addition to being elected to the College and Pro Football Halls of Fame, Bednarik was voted the “Greatest Center of All Time” in 1969. Bednarik’s legacy as a defender is immortalized with the Bednarik Award, annually presented to the best defensive player in the country as voted on by the Maxwell Football Club.