Reggie White. Brian Dawkins. Donovan McNabb.
These are just a few names that come to mind when thinking about the greatest players in Eagles history. Before all of those more recent players, however, was a man who perfectly defined what it meant to be a Philadelphia Eagle. I'm talking about the best Eagle of all-time, of course, Chuck Bednarik.
Back in 2011, I discussed what made Bednarik so great. I was never alive to see him play, but between everything I've read and studied about his career, it's clear he's a legend.
I wanted to get his thoughts on the present day Eagles before diving into the history of his career. His thoughts on them were optimistic. With a reassuring tone, he said, "I like [Chip Kelly] very much. I think he'll do alright."
I had the honor of speaking with Chuck today, as part of the "Hometown Hall of Famers" program sponsored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate. You can read more about that here. When asked about that honor, he told me it' is, "one of the biggest honors I have received and I have received a lot of honors." He said it's a big deal for him and his hometown of Bethelem, PA.
Speaking of honors, Bednarik was very humble when asked about being one of the best Eagles of all-time. "Well it's... it's super. Wow," he said, reflecting on the great honor.
Part of what made Bednarik such an amazing player was that he was one of the final players to play all 60 minutes of the game. He lined up at Center on offense and Linebacker on defense. He also punted sometimes too, so he really never left the field. Chuck said it wasn't difficult for him, though. Bednarik, 88, gave a spry answer, "No problem! That's the only way I knew how to play."
I also detected excitement in his voice when we talked about the Eagles 1960 championship. He expressed that it was such a great moment for him and his team. Along with the championship, Bednarik is known for his infamous hit on New York Giants RB Frank Gifford.
Chuck called the play a "different hit". This hit was so devastating that it caused Gifford to miss a whole year of football the following season. Also, some of the players on the field that day thought he had literally killed Gifford.
Plays like the Gifford hit tie into Bednarik's favorite memory from playing football. He told me what he loved most about the game, "[Hitting] someone mean and clean. Mean and clean. Let them know that you're there."
Beyond football, Chuck said one of the things he wants to be remembered for is his military service. Bednarik went off to war at the young age of 18 and survived over 30 missions in the Air Force before coming back home to play football. Bednarik told me he believed serving in the military certainly helped his football career.
1962 was the last year of Bednarik's football career. He said it was very hard for him to leave the game. "When I retired, I figured it was time. I hated to do it, but I had to do it."
Asked if he would change anything about his career, he said, "I would not have changed anything."
After having such a great career like he did, it's hard to blame him. Concrete Charlie will live on forever as not only one of the best Eagles players, but football players, of all time.