The Grim Reaper drafts one hellacious football player in Chuck Bednarik

Chuck Bednarik always seemed too damn tough to die, as majestically monolithic as the Rock of Gibraltar.

After all, his nickname was Concrete Charlie. No other nickname captured anyone as eloquently.

A litany of percussive words defined him: Hard. Ornery. Fierce. Mean. Cantankerous. Unyielding.

Bednarik was The Iron Man, the last of the 60-Minute Men.

He was the pure essence of football, imbued with a smoldering lust for hitting.

Granted, combat was ingrained into his DNA when he climbed behind a machine gun in a B-24 for 30 missions as a teenager fighting in World War II.

He was a monster as a center and linebacker back when the NFL was a gang fight in shoulder pads, a crackling cage of friction and chaos.

In an era when the tentacles of NFL violence spread like a fire whose only mind was wind, the rugged and resolute Bednarik never was sequestered without control.

When the cold light of day broke each autumn Sunday, Bednarik couldn’t wait to stick his nose into the cement mixer of muscle and mayhem.

All those collisions and scrums left him with multiple fingers pointing in multiple directions. Even with those gnarled fingers, he could play a mean (what else?) polka on his accordion.

For 58 1/2 minutes in the NFL’s 1960 championship game, Bednarik held his ground in the middle of Franklin Field at center and linebacker, a force of nature determined to postpone the christening of the Green Bay Packers’ dynasty.

He played that game with a foaming passion that crested when he wrestled Packers fullback Jim Taylor to the ground one last time and held him there until the final gun punctuated the Eagles’ 17-13 victory.

The Eagles haven’t ruled pro football since.

An All-American at Penn when the Ivy League school, believe it or not, was a football powerhouse, Bednarik was born for the game.

He was a physical giant among his generation’s players, and so versatile that he occasionally punted and kicked off.

Indelibly etched into the memories of everyone who saw it was Bednarik’s iconic hit on the New York Giants’ Frank Gifford on Nov. 20, 1960 at Yankee Stadium.

George Shaw’s pass was behind Gifford, who reached back and grabbed the ball. He tucked it under his arm and turned up field. Where Bednarik infamously de-cleated the dashing halfback with a gruesome bear hug punctuated by a vicious forearm.

Gifford dropped as if hit with an ice pick in his neck.

Bednarik stood exultant over the prone, unconscious Gifford who had dared to run a route over the middle into the hunting grounds patrolled by a predator like Concrete Charlie.

Yeah, the obit said that Concrete Charlie is dead.

But I refuse to believe that.


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