George Connor dead at 78

General Published on : 4/1/2003

Hall of Famer George Connor, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Class of 1975, passed away yesterday at the age of 78.
"We are deeply saddened to learn of George Connor's death," commented the Hall of Fame's Executive Director John Bankert. "George was a key member of the famed "Monsters of the Midway".

"While he played on both sides of the ball, his contribution to the game as a linebacker was so very important. George was truly the first fast and agile linebacker ever to play in the NFL," continued Bankert. "George was a good friend of the Hall of Fame and will be sorely missed. Our thoughts go out to his family."

Connor earned All-NFL honors at three different positions during his eight-year career with the Bears from 1948 to 1955 before a severe knee injury ended his career. In 1952 and 1953, he was named all-league on both the offensive and defensive teams by different wire services.

Connor was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame along with Roosevelt Brown, Dante Lavelli, and Lenny Moore on January 11, 1975. The Class of 1975 was formally enshrined during ceremonies held on August 2 of that year.

George Connor bio

George Connor's Enshrinement Speech (August 2, 1975)

George Halas and George Connor
George Halas poses with George Connor at the 1975 enshrinement in Canton, OH.

Fellow enshrinees, members of the Board of Directors, former enshrinees, honored guests and friends. I certainly want to thank my coach, George Halas, and you might have wondered what I just whispered to the old man as we used to call him. I said 'Coach I wish you would have said those things many years before we signed the contract.'

I do want to thank Ed McCaskey for being my presenter last night. George Halas was busy in Chicago and flew down this morning. I tell you what, this is a great thrill for an Irishman from the city of Chicago. The morning of the Super Bowl in New Orleans and how to God Dick Gallagher ever found me, we were in the Tabernacle Motor Hotel and I dare anyone in the audience to ever stay there and if you go to New Orleans don't stay there. But Gallagher found me. He called me and said 'George, I have great news for you. You've been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.' I was elated - a dream come true.

And I tell you what, in the past months since early in January, I never realized what could happen to a man's life on a selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Fourteen other Bears are in this Hall led by the great George Halas. And I want to pay a special tribute to George Halas, one of the founding fathers of the NFL as the story goes on the steps of a running board in an automobile agency, I believe in 1920, the NFL was formed. And what a man George Halas has been over the years as a pioneer of the NFL and thank God he was here to be my presenter and thank God there is a George Halas and we have the NFL and we have the NFL in Canton, Ohio. George…..

The last number of months, of course I played in the early days and we didn't have re-runs. But they have re-runs now and I have done some work in television and I know what one is. The last four and five months have been a re-run, I what to tell you it has been a re-run of my life. I have been so fortunate to hear from former friends and teachers and coaches and Dave Conlin from the Chicago Tribune has said that George Connor has had more parties before going to the Hall of Fame in Canton that all his relatives are broke.

And I will tell you something beautiful, my lovely wife Sue comes from a non-athletic family and it has been tough for her to understand all these parties. She thought I should be out working selling corrugated boxes. But I always try to combine them both.

I would like to sum up my thoughts in that I am a lucky man. I am lucky to be with Lenny, Rosey and Dante and for the last three or four days we have been like blood brothers, we have been together. We have all experienced the same things that Joe Stydahar told me and Danny Fortmann told me, you don't really know what is going to happen to you until you get to Canton, Ohio. I go over here late Tuesday night, couldn't go to sleep. I got up Thursday night and Wednesday night I couldn't go to sleep. Well, last night I did get a little sleep, but really my thoughts are we are so lucky to be here. And I think we are here for one reason. Number one, we came as George Halas sent some great stock, we had some great parents and I think that is the start of any family. We had great friends, great teachers through grade school, high school and college. We had great friends in growing up. We had great coaches in grade school, high school and college. I had great coaches all the way in Holy Cross and Notre Dame and frankly had George Halas with the Bears and I do have to make a special mention of my line coach of the Bears, Hunk Anderson who to me was one of the greatest defensive coaches.

But I think there is more that makes up a football player than God given gifts which we were given. I think there are other things and that is your family and your friends. And I am so proud of my family here - they are all lined up over here and I am so proud of friends that traveled and they will be my friends for the rest of my life. And these are not fellows I played with. They are fellows I played against and people I have met in my whole life. So to sum it up, I would just like to say that I thank God for my God-given athletic talent, I thank my friends and my coaches and my teammates all along the line for the encouragement and the support they have given me.

A particular thanks to my mother for nursing me as an incubator baby. Some people say they left me in too long and that is what happened to my large feet. But mother gave me my inspiration. I accept with high honors in the name of the Connor family and in the name of my coaches, friends and teammates and particularly I only wish that my late father, Dr. Charles Connor and my late brother, Chuck, could be here today and I accept this high award in their name. Thank you.