Mike Ditka: New HOF member Dick Stanfel was 'special' as a coach

Dick Stanfel's playing and coaching careers spanned six decades across college and pro football, including five first-team All-Pro selections as an NFL offensive lineman. Courtesy of Detroit Lions

When Mike Ditka was hired by the Chicago Bears in 1982, he could have hired anyone he liked to coach his offensive line. He stuck with the guy in-house. It might have been one of the better decisions Ditka, who won a Super Bowl in Chicago, ever made.

The in-house guy was Dick Stanfel, who was enshrined into the Hall of Fame as a player for the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins on Saturday but might be equally well-known as a tough and talented offensive line coach.

"I could have brought in other people," Ditka said during Stanfel's Hall of Fame presentation. "But he was the first guy that I made sure I kept. Dick was special and he related to his players. They loved him.

"But he got the best out of 'em. He made them understand. You know, teaching football sometimes can get complicated. But he never got it complicated. Here's the guy you gotta block. Block him."

Two of Stanfel's sons, Rich and Scott, told ESPN they had multiple players whom their father coached call them over the past few years to tell them stories about their dad and how much he influenced their own football careers.

He was that good of a coach and that respected of a man.

Both Ditka and Stanfel's presenter -- his former boss and good friend Marv Levy -- spent part of the five-minute video explaining why Stanfel should be in the Hall of Fame. He had a career few have seen since he played from only 1952 to 1958 and had very few statistics as an offensive lineman. He played in Detroit and Washington. He coached at Notre Dame and California in college and then Philadelphia, San Francisco, New Orleans and Chicago in the NFL.

Levy pushed hard for Stanfel to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and it is part of the reason Stanfel's three sons chose their father's friend to be his presenter. He is one of two players who are being enshrined posthumously Saturday along with Ken Stabler, so there was no speech after the presentation video.

In the video, Levy called Stanfel, who was named the MVP of the Lions' 1953 NFL championship team, the "guard of the century." Levy had spoken with multiple defensive linemen from the 1950s, including Hall of Famers Gino Marchetti and Art Donovan, and they told Levy that Stanfel was the best offensive lineman of his generation.

Levy knew that, too, because he saw it every day when he hired Stanfel as a coach at Cal. Stanfel, only a few years removed from a playing career that ended early so he could go into coaching, would occasionally jump into a drill to teach it himself.

It left Levy, at times, just saying, "Wow."

This weekend was a big moment for the Stanfel family, which didn't think its patriarch would end up enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He had previously been nominated in 1993 and in 2012. In 2012, Rich Stanfel put together an aggressive campaign to try and get his father enshrined.

He wasn't then, but he was Saturday. Stanfel's three sons and Levy unveiled the bust of their father and friend to the rest of the world. The sons then lingered for a second, with Dick's middle son, Scott, touching and rubbing the bust before stepping off the stage.

The Stanfels used this unexpected weekend as one final celebration of their father and one last chance to remember his role in NFL history.

"This has been such a tremendously wild ride from Dad's career to being a coach and connected to the NFL in general, it's just been a phenomenal life and couldn't be a better recognition," Rich Stanfel told ESPN recently. "It's a little bittersweet, but we're just so proud his legacy will live on forever.

"Just that special."