Thursday, May 8, 2014

Bears' Number One Draft Pick of 1940: Clyde "Bulldog" Turner

On December 8, 1940, the Chicago Bears defeated the Boston Redskins, 73-–0, to win the NFL Championship.  The Bears’ modified T Formation proves to be unstoppable that day.  On December 21, 1941, the Chicago Bears defeated the New York Giants, 37–9, to win the NFL Championship.  On December 26, 1943, the Chicago Bears defeated the Washington Redskins, 41–21, to win the NFL Championship.  On December 15, 1946, Bears defeated the New York Giants, 24–14, to win the NFL championship.  One man who was an essential part of these championship wins was Clyde” Bulldog” Turner.

Born in the town of Plains in west Texas on March 10, 1919, Clyde Turner, like his daddy, would be a Texas cowboy all his life— at least in spirit and character.  He attended Sweetwater High School—the same school that Sammy Baugh attended.  But unlike Baugh, one the most celebrated quarterbacks of his day, Turner played in relative obscurity with low pay based on his position on the field. 

Turner learned the game of football in high school and kept learning all through his college and professional days.  He wanted to know how each position on the field was played.  There were no college scouts admiring his high school play so he traveled around to audition his skills.  He hit pay dirt at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene where he made up the nickname “Bulldog” to draw attention to himself.  The Bears snagged Bulldog as their number one pick in the 1940 draft. 

Turner was 6-foot-2 and 232 pounds.  He was the Bears center during the heyday of their modified T Formation with the gifted and intelligent Sid Luckman at quarterback.  Turner was an excellent blocker and versatile enough to fill in for other lineman at guard or tackle if needed.  He was even called on to play halfback during one game and carried the ball for a touchdown. 

On defense, Turner was known as a tough fast linebacker who had a nose for the ball.  He was fast for a man of his size.  He had a career long interception of 96 yards against Washington.

Another great Bears’ lineman and “Monster of the Midway,” George Musso, roomed with Turner and had great respect for him.  Musso famously said of Turner, ''Who knows what kind of player he would have been if he ever got to rest during a game?''  Turner like many of his contemporaries was playing most very minute of the game.  Legendary West Point coach Colonel Red Blaik was having success with the platoon system, where players would only play on offense or defense in the mid-40s, but it was not adopted much in the NFL until later in the decade. 
Turner gave the Bears 13 years of service.  He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1966.  After he retired as a player, he worked as an assistant for George Halas and briefly coaches the troubled New York Titans who would change owners and become the Jets.  He moved back to west Texas and he became a rancher, but worked at other things as well.  The West Texas cowboy,  Clyde “Bulldog” Turner,  died on October 30, 1998 at the age of 79 in Gatesville, Texas.

Copyright 2014, Sporting Chance Press

Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships and other fine book including Maddie Takes the Ice;  The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life);  Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle; and Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout.  Seen here.