Extra Points: Remembering 'Concrete Charlie'

Philadelphia, PA ( - Father Time is the one opponent that beats us all but you get the feeling he's in the tub icing himself down this morning after taking on "Concrete Charlie."

The great Chuck Bednarik passed away at the age of 89 this weekend after a short illness.

Professional football is full of lore and a lot of it starts with Bednarik, the epitome of the so-called greatest generation. He played football in the Ivy League at the University of Pennsylvania after serving in World War II, where he flew 30 different missions as a B-24 waist gunner, being awarded the Air Medal.

If draftniks were around in 1949, Bednarik would have been the ultimate character guy and he was selected by the Eagles with the No. 1 overall pick before turning into one of the last NFL ironmen and perhaps the toughest man to ever set foot on the gridiron.

People around NFL Films are fond of calling John Facenda the "voice of God" and if a deity really did give us the gift of Facenda's pipes, it was likely to narrate the career of Bednarik, a Hall of Famer who earned his nickname with some absolutely devastating hits, coupled with his offseason profession as a concrete salesman.

A true Philadelphia legend, Bednarik played a franchise-record 14 seasons with the Eagles from '49-'62 and garnered a team record eight Pro Bowl nominations, eight All-Pro nods, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in '67, his first year of eligibility.

More importantly he was part of two NFL Championship teams ('49 and '60) and his performance in the '60 NFL Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers was something out of a Hollywood script.

The HOFer played nearly the entire contest against the Packers at linebacker on defense and center on offense. With seconds remaining and fellow Canton-ite Jim Taylor bearing down on the end zone, Bednarik stuffed him with a game- saving tackle, bear-hugging Taylor to the ground as time expired, preserving a 17-13 Eagles victory.

That was the last time Philadelphia was on top of the NFL as Bednarik lived another 55 years after his heroics yet never saw another Eagles player lift the franchise to the game's ultimate prize.

"With the passing of Chuck Bednarik, the Eagles and our fans have lost a legend," team owner Jeffrey Lurie said. "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."

To this day Bednarik is remembered as one of the most punishing tacklers of all-time with his knockout blow of Frank Gifford, also in '60, one of the most iconic moments in the game's history despite revisionists attempts to erase all violence from of the game.

Bednarik delivered a clean, shoulder-high hit on Gifford, which detached the Giants' star from the football and sent him to the sidelines for the entire '61 season.

"So many of the timeless moments in Eagles history are associated with Chuck Bednarik, Eagles COO 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."

Some well-intentioned but uneducated observers will surely balk at glorifying the pure viciousness Bednarik unleashed on foes but it was a different time and trying to downplay his greatness to promote a watered-down version of what football has become is unfair to him and the legacy of the sport.

Football has always been and will always be a tough man's game.

And it's time to say goodbye to the toughest of them all -- "Concrete Charlie."

"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," current Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "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."