Chat transcript with Chuck Bednarik

General Published on : 9/15/2000

Chuck Bednarik  was a two-way star that played center/linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1949-62. He was enshrined into the Hall in 1967. He played 58 minutes and made the game-saving tackle against Jim Taylor as the Eagles beat the Packers, 17-13, in the 1960 NFL Championship Game. Chuck was kind enough to join us for an online chat Friday afternoon.

Undated AP file photo of Chuck Bednarik

Chuck Bednarik

Moderator: Chuck is here and we are ready to go! Send in your questions to the moderator NOW!

starling: Who had the biggest influence on your pro career?
Chuck Bednarik: I would think my first coach -- Earle "Greasy" Neale. I was the first selection in 1949 and he chose me from the University of Pennsylvania. I admired him so much. He introduced me into the Hall of Fame, and two years later I introduced him when he was inducted. I'm looking at a picture of him on my wall right now.

aschlitt: What do you miss most about playing?
Chuck Bednarik: Time has gone by really .... so I can't really say that I miss much anymore. I don't attend pro football games. It's in Philadelphia and there's traffic there and I don't understand the pro football players of today, who are overpaid. I go to Lehigh University, which is 12 minutes from my home. The amount of money pro football players make boggles my mind.

bearsfan: Were you the hardest hitter of your era? Who would compare with you then and now?
Chuck Bednarik: I would be bragging if I said that. There were a number of hard hitters. In my opinion, Dick Butkus was the finest linebacker I ever saw...and then Ray Nitschke of the Green Bay Packers. I would rate them ahead of me. But Dick Butkus didn't play offense...they played one-way and they were great...but they couldn't play two-ways.

bearsfan: What's the fondest memory from your professional career?
Chuck Bednarik: The 1960 World Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers at Franklin Field. We defeated them 17-13 and I was fortunate enough to stop Jim Taylor at the nine-yard line on the last play from scrimmage. I was on the championship team my rookie year and then in 1960. That game without a doubt was the greatest game I ever had.

jmroz: How much money did you make per season?
Chuck Bednarik: In 1949, I was the first draft choice in the NFL and there were 12 teams. I received a bonus of $3,000 and a contract of $12,000. I bought a brand new house for $14,500 and a brand new Pontiac for $2,200. Now you can understand why I begrudge these guys -- they come out and hold for extra points and make half a million dollars. The most I ever made was $27,000. The reason is very simple -- there was no television...that's what created it.

bearsfan: Chuck, have you ever been approached by Kathie Lee with the request to take another shot at Frank Gifford?
Chuck Bednarik: At the college HOF a few years back, all this interviewer talked about was the Frank Gifford tackle...and kiddingly I said to him that I wished it was Kathie Lee on that shot instead of Frank. Well, someone sent a copy to Frank and he sent me something and said "Chuck, I hope this was just some reporter making comments. It won't be forgotten." So I don't watch Kathie Lee too much on television. But I can really say to you that Frank and I are friends...I see him at the HOF. I say that if you're going to do something big, do it in New York.

aschlitt: Do you think playing both ways made you a better player because you had more insight into both offense and defense?
Chuck Bednarik:
Absolutely. I know besides myself, there could have been guys who went both ways. There's no question I knew how to play, because in high school, everyone played both ways. In college, everyone went both ways. I graduated in 1948, and in 1952 the platoon system came in. But I knew how to play both ways in high school and college, and I was in good condition, and I was capable of doing what I did. Most of today's kids are 6-5, 340....could you picture them sitting on the field going both ways? They are dying now after going three or four plays. They are big, but not better. There are good football players out there, though. I never saw a 320-pound player in my career.I got a grandson who is 13-years old and is 175 big is he gonna be? Remember the name:  Ryan'll hear about him.

bearsfan: If you hadn't played football, what would you have done? And what would you have done with all that anger and aggression?
Chuck Bednarik: I always thought that being a football coach would have been a great thing for me. I always wanted to be a coach and a teacher. Well, I never had to do it because of my football career and I was very lucky. Now I look back and think of being a coach and teacher...that's a tough job. When I looked at Bobby Knight, I looked at myself. There's no telling how many times I would have been fired because of my temperament. I admire that guy, he did it like he thought he should. That's all from upbringing, growing up on the streets, and going to war and flying gave me the guts to go on the football field. It's just the attitude. Hey, football is a contact sport ... you go out there and knock the guy out...just like boxing...that's my philosophy.

MODERATOR: Well, that wraps up the chat! Thanks to Chuck for all the insight and thanks for the great questions!
Chuck Bednarik: See you later everyone...thanks for the questions....