PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia Eagles Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker and center Chuck Bednarik has died at age 89, the team announced on Saturday.
Bednarik died early this morning following a brief illness at an assisted living facility in Richland, Pennsylvania.
A Philadelphia legend, Bednarik played a franchise-record 14 seasons with the Eagles from 1949-1962 and was part of two NFL Championship squads, in both 1949 and in 1960. One of the last two-way players in the NFL, Bednarik delivered a legendary performance in the 1960 NFL Championship Game, playing nearly every minute at both linebacker and center against the Green Bay Packers. With seconds remaining in the contest and Packers running back Jim Taylor headed for the end zone, Bednarik made a game-saving tackle and bear-hugged him to the ground as time ran out, preserving a 17-13 Eagles victory.
“With the passing of Chuck Bednarik, the Eagles and our fans have lost a legend,” team owner Jeffrey Lurie said. “Philadelphia fans grow up expecting toughness, all-out effort and a workmanlike attitude from this team and so much of that image has its roots in the way Chuck played the game. He was a Hall of Famer, a champion and an all-time Eagle. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones during this time.”
Known as one of the most devastating tacklers and toughest players in the NFL, Bednarik earned the nickname “Concrete Charlie” from his offseason job as a concrete salesman for the Warner Company. He garnered a team record eight Pro Bowl nominations, eight All-Pro nods and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, his first year of eligibility. His No. 60 jersey is one of nine numbers to be retired by the Eagles. He played in 169 career games, notching 20 interceptions on defense, including one returned for a touchdown.
“I have had the opportunity to spend time with Chuck Bednarik, who is truly one of the most unique players that this game has ever seen,” said head coach Chip Kelly. “The foundation of this organization and this league is built on the backs of past greats, with Chuck at the forefront. The way he played the game with an endless passion and tenacity helped establish the standard of excellence that this organization stands for; one that we strive to achieve each and every day.”
Born on May 1, 1925, in Bethlehem, PA, Bednarik played football at the University of Pennsylvania after serving in World War II, where he flew 30 missions as a B-24 waist gunner and was awarded the Air Medal. Bednarik went on to earn All-America honors in his final two seasons at Penn and was selected by the Eagles with the first overall choice in the 1949 NFL draft. Since 1995, the Maxwell Football Club annually gives out the “Chuck Bednarik Award” to college football’s best defensive player.
Bednarik is survived by Emma, his wife of 67 years, five daughters, 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Funeral arrangements are pending.