George McAfee, 1918-2009
George McAfee, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 1966, passed away Wednesday night. He would have turned 91 next week.
Perhaps as well known for his low-cut shoes as his exciting display of speed and agility as multi-purpose performer, McAfee starred for the Chicago Bears from 1940-41 before serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He rejoined the Bears in 1945 and played for the famed Monsters of the Midway until his retirement following the 1950 season.
“George McAfee’s exhilarating style of play on the field earned him his rightful place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame,” commented Steve Perry, the Hall’s President/Executive Director. “Clearly, his impact as a halfback and defensive back along with his elusiveness as a punt returner played an integral role in the Bears success during his era. On behalf of all of us at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I express sincere condolences to his family and friends.”
Born in Corbin, Kentucky on March 13, 1918, McAfee became an All-America at Duke. He was the second overall pick in the 1940 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles who had prearranged to immediately trade him to George Halas’ Bears.
McAfee made an instant splash in the NFL when he returned a punt 75 yards for a score with just over 30 seconds to play to beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in his first preseason game. More heroics followed in that year’s regular season opener as he scored on a 93-yard kickoff return and also threw a touchdown pass in the Bears win.
Nicknamed “One-Play McAfee,” he pioneered the use of the low-cut shoes in the NFL that he thought helped his speed on the football field as he provided a wide set of talents to the Bears attack. A 6’0”, 178-pound halfback, McAfee also was a lethal threat on punt returns and finished his career with a record 12.78-yard average. In all, he amassed more than 5,300 net yards and also intercepted 25 passes on defense. His exciting 34-yard interception return for a touchdown helped fuel the Bears stunning 73-0 upset of the Washington Redskins in the 1940 NFL Championship Game.
McAfee played on three championship Bears teams during his eight-season NFL career. He was voted to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1940s and to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Two-Way Team in 1994.
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