The death of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback/kicker George Blanda brings to mind the earliest part of his professional career with the Chicago Bears. Here's how the folks at the Hall of Fame Players Association encapsulated that part of Blanda's life:
At Kentucky, George had become a fine linebacker, an outstanding punter and place-kicker, and developing quarterback when George Halas drafted him as a 12th round pick for the Chicago Bears. Chicago already had some big name quarterbacks on its roster such as Sid Luckman, Johnny Lujack and Bobby Layne. Blanda signed with the Bears when Halas offered him a $6,000 contract and a $600 bonus.
"What could I do?" George remembers, "That's an awful lot of money for a 21 year-old kid who's never had anything in his life."
Widely recognized as one of the truly great competitors sports has known, Blanda was also a student of the game he played. In his first pre-season game for the Bears he took over in the third quarter of a 0-0 game and promptly threw a 40-yard TD strike to George McAfee on the first play and had a seven for seven day and a 34-0 win.
This performance was not, however, the sign of things to come. Except for the 1953 and 1954 seasons, Blanda was never a regular for the Bears. He was enjoying great success in 1954 when a shoulder injury kept him out of the last four season games. This was the only time in his stellar career that he had to miss a game due to injury. The Bears had kicking in mind for the 31-year-old Blanda, but George balked at the offer and retired (for the first time) in 1959.
Our thoughts are with Blanda's family.