Nov. 20, 1960 - Trailing the Eagles 17-10, the New York
Giants were trying to mount a late comeback at Yankee Stadium. Halfback Frank Gifford reached back to catch Charlie Conerley's pass, and he turned upfield in routine fashion.
That's when Chuck Bednarik came along and changed both their lives. "Chuck knocked him right out of his shoes," Eagles defensive back Tom Brookshier said.
Bednarik's crushing blow to Gifford's chest left the running back
on his back, out cold with a severe concussion - and out of football the rest of that season and all the next year as well. As Eagles linebacker Chuck Weber recovered the fumble that seemed almost an afterthought to the ferocity of the hit, Bednarik stood over Gifford, pumping his right arm, doing a dance and yelling. "This ------ game is over."
"I was celebrating," Bednarik said, "but the reason wasn't that he was down. The reason was that the hit won the game."
"It was perfectly legal," Gifford said later. "If I'd had the chance, I'd have done the same thing Chuck did."
Decades later, the two Hall of Famers were attending a banquet, and Bednarik greeted Gifford. "Hey, Frank," Bednarik said, "good to see you. How are you doing?"
Gifford replied, "I made you famous, didn't I, Chuck?"
"Yes, you did, Frank," Bednarik said.
Odds 'n' Ends
While at Penn, Bednarik played for teams that went a collective
24-7-1. The Quakers were ranked as high as No. 7 during his junior year of 1947.
How did the 1948 champion Philadelphia Eagles gain the right
to make Bednarik the first pick in the 1949 draft? Blind luck. In those days, the NFL had a "bonus selection," an overall No. 1 pick that would be determined by lot. The Eagles won the draw.
Bednarik's first pro contract was for $10,000 with a $3,000 signing bonus. His salary peaked at $22,000 before he retired in 1962.
One year his contract included a clause for a $1,000 bonus "if Bednarik has a good year and plays both offense and defense."
After being injured the first two games of his pro career, Bednarik played in 147 of his last 148 with the missed game coming in 1957.
During the 1960 season, after coach Buck Shaw called on him to
play both ways after the fifth week, Bednarik played at least 50 minutes in four games, including the championship game against the Packers. The Eagles won all four.
Bednarik was on the field for 135 of the 138 plays in the 17-13 victory over Green Bay, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The exceptions were three Philadelphia kickoffs.
Sportswriter Hugh Brown of The Bulletin in Philadelphia is credited with giving Bednarik the nickname "Concrete Charlie." Noting in 1960 that the Eagles center and middle linebacker were one and the same, Brown wrote that Bednarik "is as hard as the concrete he sells."
Bednarik sold it for 20 years, taking advantage of a building boom in
Eastern Pennsylvania in the fifties and sixties. "The Schuylkill Expressway was being built, and they had all those high-rise apartments," Bednarik said. "There was a lot of construction going on."
Bednarik made 20 interceptions in his 14-year NFL career.
His most noticeable physical attribute may be his hands. Because of countless fractures, dislocations and other ligament and cartilage damage, his fingers go in different directions. Despite this and his arthritic condition, Bednarik still golfs and plays the accordion.
A race horse named after Bednarik - Concrete Charlie - made
seven starts in 1998 and '99, winning once at Philadelphia Park and
finishing in the money four other times to earn $26,528.
Bednarik's feisty criticism of Deion Sanders' two-way play one season didn't end with the feeling Sanders was not duplicating his physical style. "I'm a Czech," Bednarik said in 1996, "and we'd call what he does a polka step. That's nightclub entertainment, not sport. Nobody likes that kind of stuff. Besides he does a bad polka step."