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Tuesday, April 1, 2003
Connor was first winner of the Outland Trophy
CHICAGO -- George Connor, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the first of the Chicago Bears' great linebackers, has died. He was 78.
Connor died Monday after a long illness. He was the first winner of the Outland Trophy, given to the nation's top college lineman, in 1946.
A star at offensive and defensive tackle, Connor became the first of the big, mobile linebackers when the Bears asked the 6-foot-3, 240-pounder to stop Philadelphia's great running back, Steve Van Buren. Connor not only stayed at linebacker, he defined the position for future generations of Bears greats like Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1975.
"George typified what the Bears were back then -- tough and hard-nosed," former teammate Ed Sprinkle said.
Connor was an All-American at Holy Cross before World War II interrupted his college career. When he returned, he made All-American twice on two undefeated Notre Dame teams.
Connor is remembered for one devastating tackle of Green Bay's Veryl Switzer on a kick return in Wrigley Field in 1955. Switzer's helmet flew one way, the ball another, and Bears linebacker Bill George recovered the fumble for a touchdown.
"After five minutes, there was a roar from the crowd,'' Connor once recalled. "I asked Johnny Lujack what happened and he said, ' Switzer just got up.' "
After a knee injury forced Connor to retire, he served as an assistant coach and later a broadcaster. He was a popular master of ceremonies for numerous charity events and a successful Chicago businessman.
Survivors include his wife Suzanne; sons George Jr. and Albert; a sister, Mary Ellen Woodward; a brother, Jack; and several nieces and nephews.
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