Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik Namesake of Slovak Football League Championship Trophy

Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik Namesake of Slovak Football League Championship Trophy

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Beginning with the 2019 season, the Slovakian Association of American Football announced that its teams will play for the championship trophy named after the greatest all-time National Football League player of Slovak descent, Philadelphia Eagles legend Charles ‘Chuck’ Bednarik.

Always proud of his family’s roots and heritage, Bednarik was a first generation Slovak-American whose parents emigrated from the village of Siroke, located near Presov.  Charles Bednarik Sr., moved to the United States for work at Pennsylvania’s Bethlehem Steel, to be followed by his wife Mary Pivovarnicek.

Entire Career Played in Philadelphia

Recognized as Philadelphia’s greatest football legend, Bednarik played his entire collegiate and professional careers in that city.   First, he played four years as an All-American center and linebacker at the University of Pennsylvania; then 14 years playing those same positions for the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL.  Bednarik starred for the 1949 and 1960 NFL Champion Eagles teams and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967,  and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1969.

Born May 1, 1925, Bednarik lived his entire life in eastern Pennsylvania.  Just prior to his high school graduation in 1942, Bednarik enlisted in the US Army Air Corp and flew 30 missions over Germany as a waist gunner on a B-29 before his discharge in 1945.  In the fall of 1945, he enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania, where he was named to the All-American team in each of his final three seasons. The Eagles selected him with the very first pick of the 1949 NFL draft.  He proceeded to start as a rookie and would miss only three games during his 14 year career.  The Eagles won the NFL championship his rookie year, and would repeat again in 1960.    Always proud of his title as the ‘Last of the Minute Men’, Bednarik was the final NFL player to play both offense and defense full time.  His 1960 season was one of NFL legend, as at age 35 he was on the field for every play in the 1960 championship game.  He led the team with 12 tackles that day, and saved the game when he brought down fellow Hall of Famer,  Green Bay Packers running back Jim Taylor, at the nine yard line on the final play of a 17-13 Eagles victory.   This would be the only championship game that the Packers would lose during the coaching career of the legendary Vince Lombardi.

Bednarik was known around Philadelphia simply as ‘Concrete Charlie”.   This was one of the most fitting nicknames in sports history, as it was emblematic of both is bruising, physical style of play and his off-the-field job of selling concrete. Bednarik’s style of play is best captured in one of the most iconic and famous photos in NFL history, as he is standing above New York Giants star Frank Gifford after a bone-jarring tackle that knocked the ball loose for fumble recovery that secured a victory for the Eagles.

Bednarik retired following the 1962 season.  In addition to his Hall of Fame honors, Bednarik made the Pro Bowl eight time, was voted All-Pro 10 times, was named the Outstanding Professional Football Player for the decade of the 1950’s.  His number 60 jersey was retired by the Eagles and he has been honored with statues by renowned United States sculptor Brian Hanlon, at both his Liberty High School and University of Pennsylvania alma maters.  In addition the Chuck Bednarik Award is given annually by the Maxwell Football Club to the outstanding defensive player in all of college football.

Always Proud of His Slovak Heritage

Bednarik was an active lifelong member of the Fraternal First Catholic Slovak Union.  He enjoyed teasing people and peppering his interviews with Slovak words and phrases.  In his 1977 biography, ‘Bednarik: Last of the Sixty-Minute Men’, written with Jack McCallum, Bednarik states, “ I guess to the Slovaks here, I became more or less a hero, particularly as they saw me on television.   I was one of theirs and I guess I still am.  There’s no question in my mind that I’m primarily American, but I’m a Slovak too, and always will be.”  In his later years one of his great sources of enjoyment was both listening to and playing Polka music on his accordion. 

Members of the American football community in Slovakia decided it only appropriate to name their national championship football trophy, The Chuck Bednarik Trophy, in honor of this NFL legend, so proud of this Slovak heritage. 

“We thought about this several years ago, and more intensely after Mr. Bednarik’s passing in March, 2015’, explained Jan Polak, president of the Slovak Association of American Football.  ‘Recently, our  vice president Juraj Sopkuliak contacted  Ken Safarowic,  who is married to one of Chuck’s five daughters.  With his assistance we were able to secure the approval of Chucks’s widow, Emma Bednarik to name this award in her husband’s honor.  By securing her blessing, we can confirm that from this season on, the award for the Slovak American football champion will be named The Chuck Bednarik Trophy.  This is a great honor for the American football community in Slovakia.  In addition to this award, we will also retire the number 60 jersey from the Slovak national team”.

Mrs. Bednarik’s Letter to SAAF

‘We are honored to learn that the Slovak Association of American Football plans to names it championship trophy in the memory of my late husband, Chuck Bednarik.  On behalf of Chuck and the rest of my family, I give you my sincere blessing and approval for this recognition.

My husband was a first generation Slovak-American, whose parents emigrated from Siroke, and he always remained proud of his heritage.   He maintained a great lifelong appreciation for the customs, language and music of his family’s homeland.

For all of the great honors that Chuck received during his lifetime, the naming of this award in his honor is one that he would take great pride in.  I know he will smile down on Slovakia and get a kick out of watching these young men play for ‘his’ trophy.

Thank you for this great honor.  It holds great meaning for a proud Slovak-American and his family.

Best Wishes,

Emma Bednarik

About Slovak Association of American Football

The Slovak Association of American Football was chartered in 2011; it’s teams include the Bratislava Monarchs, Banski Bystrica Damons, Cassovia Steelers, Nitra Knights, Smolenica Eagles, Topolcany Kings, Trnava Bulldogs, Zilina Warriors and the Zvolen Patriots.

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