In the National Football League’s early years, players moved from team to team with a great deal of regularity. In fact it wasn’t uncommon for a player to leave one team for another during the same season. But, one notable exception to this general pattern was George Trafton, the durable, hard-hitting center of the Chicago Bears between 1920 and 1932.
Trafton began his pro career with the Decatur Staleys, forerunner of the Bears, in the first year of the American Professional Football Association, forerunner of the NFL. Trafton followed the Staleys when the team moved to Chicago in 1921. However, in 1922, he took a year off from the pros to serve as an assistant football coach at Northwestern.
He returned to the Bears in 1923 and remained there for an additional 10 outstanding seasons. George was an excellent player and a superior competitor. Six times during his 12 seasons he was named to various all-league teams. He also earned, and most observers of the day say rightfully so, a reputation as rough player who was not afraid to get into an on-field scrap.
Even teammates like the fabled halfback Red Grange called him the “meanest, toughest player alive.” One writer reported that Trafton was strongly disliked in every NFL city, with the exception of Green Bay and Rock Island. In those places, "he was hated."
Trafton, however, was far more than just a roughneck. He was a skilled defensive player who had the moves of a halfback to go with his size and strength. He was one of the first centers to rove on defense and the very first on offense to center the football with only one hand. The Bears' press book once claimed their dynamic team captain never made a bad snap "in 201 games or 158 hours of actual competition. "