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Eagles legend Chuck Bednarik dies at 89

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Philadelphia Eagles legend Chuck Bednarik died Saturday morning following a brief illness. He was 89.

Bednarik, a Pro Football Hall of Famer and one of the last outstanding two-way NFL players, passed away at an assisted living facility in Richland, Pa., the team announced.

Bednarik played a franchise-record 14 seasons with the Eagles from 1949 to 1962 and was part of two NFL championship teams in 1949 and 1960.

Bednarik delivered a legendary performance in the 1960 NFL Championship Game, playing nearly every minute at both linebacker and center against the Green Bay Packers. With seconds remaining in the game and Packers running back Jim Taylor headed for the end zone, Bednarik made a game-saving tackle and bear-hugged him to the ground as time ran out, preserving a 17-13 Eagles victory.

The Eagles tweeted out a tribute to Bednarik, calling him “Forever an Eagle,” with the 1960 iconic photo of him towering over New York Giants running back Frank Gifford, who was knocked out on a devastating hit by the linebacker.

“With the passing of Chuck Bednarik, the Eagles and our fans have lost a legend,” Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement. “Philadelphia fans grow up expecting toughness, all-out effort and a workmanlike attitude from this team and so much of that image has its roots in the way Chuck played the game.

“He was a Hall of Famer, a champion and an all-time Eagle. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones during this time.”

Bednarik earned the nickname “Concrete Charlie” from his offseason job as a concrete salesman for the Warner Company. He garnered a team record eight Pro Bowl nominations, eight All-Pro nods and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, his first year of eligibility.

Bednarik’s No. 60 jersey is one of nine numbers retired by the Eagles. He played in 169 career games, notching 20 interceptions on defense, including one returned for a touchdown.

“I have had the opportunity to spend time with Chuck Bednarik, who is truly one of the most unique players that this game has ever seen,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said in a statement. “The foundation of this organization and this league is built on the backs of past greats, with Chuck at the forefront.

“The way he played the game with an endless passion and tenacity helped establish the standard of excellence that this organization stands for; one that we strive to achieve each and every day.”

Born on May 1, 1925, in Bethlehem, Pa., Bednarik played football at the University of Pennsylvania after serving in World War II, where he flew 30 missions as a B-24 waist gunner and was awarded the Air Medal.

Bednarik went on to earn All-America honors in his final two seasons at Penn and was selected by the Eagles with the first overall choice in the 1949 NFL Draft.

Since 1995, the Maxwell Football Club annually gives out the Chuck Bednarik Award to college football’s best defensive player.

“So many of the timeless moments in Eagles history are associated with Chuck Bednarik,” team president Don Smolenski said. “He played his entire career in Philadelphia, college and pro, and he lived his entire life here and in the Lehigh Valley. He was a proud competitor and a dedicated and devout family man who loved Eagles fans as much as they loved him. He left his mark on this team and will forever be a legend within this organization.”

Bednarik is survived by Emma, his wife of 67 years, five daughters — Charlene Thomas, Donna Davis, Carol Safarowic, Pam McWilliams and Jackie Chelius — 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Funeral arrangements are pending.


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