The Top 10 Chicago Bears Players of All-Time
Remember current players don’t qualify, the Bears top 10 is almost impossible considering they have had close to 30 players elected to the NFL hall of fame.
10) Mike Singletary
“Samurai Mike” had crazy eyes that struck fear into an opposing offense even before he laid the smack down. The on-field brains behind Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan’s famed 1985 Bears defense, Singletary is undeniably one of the greatest to ever play the position.
9) Red Grange
Grange after college was immediately courted by teams in the National Football League. The long-suffering Rochester Jeffersons made a last-ditch effort to sign Grange at a salary of $5,000 per game, but were unable to do so, a key factor in the team’s demise. The Chicago Bears ultimately signed him; player/manager George Halas agreed to a contract for a 19-game barnstorming tour, signed the day after Grange played his last college game. The contract earned Grange a salary and share of gate receipts that amounted to $100,000, during an era when typical league salaries were less than $100/game. That 67-day tour is credited with legitimizing professional football and the NFL in the United States.
On December 6, 1925, between 65,000 and 73,000 people showed up at the Polo Grounds to watch Grange, helping save the New York Giants’ franchise. Grange scored a touchdown on a 35-yard interception return in the Bears’ 19–7 victory. Offensively, he ran for 53 yards on 11 carries, caught a 23-yard pass, and completed two of three passes for 32 yards. In his first year, he accounted for at least 401 total yards and three touchdowns in his five official NFL games for the Bears. Grange’s career was never what it could of been with the Bears because of injuries, but their is no denying he was a great football player. If not for Red Grange who knows what would have happened to the NFL?
8) Bronco Nagurski
Nagurski was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a charter member on September 7, 1963. He was the only player in NFL history to be named All-Pro at three non-kicking positions.
Nagurski turned professional to play for the Chicago Bears from 1930 to 1937. At 6-feet-2 inches and 235 pounds, he would have been a formidable presence in any era of the NFL, and in his day he was a dominant force in the league, helping the Bears win several division titles and two NFL championships.
Nagurski has the largest recorded NFL Championship ring size at 19½ and wore a size 8 helmet. He was probably the largest running back of his time, bigger than most linemen of the day and a forerunner to large fullbacks like Marion Motley, John Henry Johnson and Jim Brown, often dragging multiple tacklers with him. In a time when players were expected to play on both sides of the ball, he was a standout defensive lineman as well playing ranging tackle or “The Monster.” After an injury, instead of sitting on the bench, he would sometimes be put in as an offensive tackle, making him the only player in NFL history to be named All-Pro at three non-kicking positions. In a 1984 interview with Sports Illustrated writer Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman, when asked what position he would play if he were coming up in the present day, he said, “I would probably be a linebacker today. I wouldn’t be carrying the ball 20 or 25 times a game.”
7) Bulldog Turner
Turner was the Bears’ first round selection in the 1940 NFL draft. But, at first at least, Turner didn’t want to be on the Bears. It turned out that the Detroit Lions’ owner paid him $200 to “get his teeth fixed” and turn down other teams proposals. The Lions were fined $5,000 for tampering, and the Bears got a great two-way player.
Turner was big for his day (6 ft 1 in, 237 lb); however, he was smart and very fast. A six-time all-pro center, and a steady linebacker, Turner intercepted four passes in five NFL title games. In 1942, he led the league in interceptions (8). He said that he studied all 11 assignments for all plays, which came in handy when some players were ejected for fighting one game in 1943. Teammate George Musso once said of Bulldog, “Who knows what kind of player he would have been if he ever got to rest during a game?”
An eight-time All-Pro selection, Turner was a member of the NFL 1940s All-Decade Team and the NFL 50th Anniversary All-Time Team, named in 1969. The Bears retired his number 66.
6) Doug Atkins
Atkins was a fierce defender who was known for using his immense size and agility to his advantage. With the Bears, Atkins was a First Team All-Pro selection in 1958, 1960, 1961, and 1963; along with being a starter in the Pro Bowl in eight of his last nine years with Chicago. Atkins was one of the greatest pass rushers in NFL history.
5) Sid Luckman
Luckman was the first modern T-formation quarterback and is considered the greatest long range passer of his time. He was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1943, and Pulitzer prize winning sportswriter Ira Berkow wrote that Luckman was “the first great T-formation quarterback”. Following his retirement from playing, Luckman continued his association with football by tutoring college coaches, focusing on the passing aspect of the game.
Luckman was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965, and in 1988 he was declared a joint winner of the Walter Camp Distinguished American Award.
4) Gale Sayers
“The Kansas Comet” records include most touchdowns in a rookie season (22 in 1965), most touchdowns in a game (6, tied with Nevers and Jones), highest career kickoff return average (30.56), and most return touchdowns in a game (2, tied with many players). Injuries cut short his career, but was probably the most amazing runner in pro football history.
3) Mike Ditka
A member of both the College Football and Pro Football Hall of Fame, he was the 1961 UPI NFL Rookie of Year, a five-time Pro Bowl selection and five-time All-Pro tight end with the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, and Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL).
He was an NFL champion with the 1963 Bears, and is a three-time Super Bowl champion, playing on the Cowboys Super Bowl VI team as well as winning as an assistant coach for the Cowboys in Super Bowl XII, and coaching the Bears to victory in Super Bowl XX. He was named to both the NFL’s 50th and 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.
As a coach for the Bears for 11 years he was twice both the AP and UPI NFL Coach of Year (1985 and 1988). He also coached the New Orleans Saints for three years.
Ditka and Tom Flores are the only people to win an NFL title as a player, an assistant coach, and a head coach. Ditka, Flores and Gary Kubiak are also the only people in modern NFL history to win a championship as head coach of a team he played for previously. Ditka was the only person to participate in both of the last two Chicago Bears’ championships, as a player in 1963 and as head coach in 1985.
He is known by the nickname “Iron Mike,” which he has said comes from his being born and raised in a steel town in Pennsylvania.
2) Dick Butkus
Butkus was simply the greatest linebacker of his generation and one of the best linebackers of all time.
Butkus was also selected the 70th Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century by ESPN, the ninth-best player in NFL history by The Sporting News, and the fifth-best by the Associated Press.
Butkus was selected to eight Pro Bowls and was all-league six times. In his rookie season, Butkus led the Bears in tackles, interceptions, forced fumbles, and fumble recoveries, and regularly led the team in these categories throughout his career. Butkus recovered 27 fumbles in his career, an NFL record at the time of his retirement. He was one of the most feared players of his era and even appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1970 with the caption “The Most Feared Man in the Game.” He had one of his most productive seasons in 1970 with 132 tackles, 84 assists, 3 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries. He was forced to retire after multiple knee injuries in 1973.
1) Walter Payton
Walter Payton, he had a indescribably beautiful way of running. He wasn’t the biggest back at only 5’10’ and 200 pounds, but he was tough and fearless, often flying over defenders as if he had wings.
But for me, his running style was simply graceful and had almost a ballet-like quality to it. He earned the nickname “Sweetness” because his running was just sweet to watch. He sliced through defenders with a grace that, is hard to describe. Offset that with one of the greatest stiff arms of all time and you have one of the best pure runners in NFL history.