Thursday, February 12, 2015

Bronco Nagurski Return for Bears' 1943 War Championship

The 1943 Bears would play without Halas for a few years when Papa Bear was in the Navy.  The league suffered financially and players were in short supply.  Nevertheless,  Hunk Anderson and Luke Johnsos co-coached the Bears to a great season.  

The Chicago Bears were helped immeasurably when the legendary Bronko Nagurski was coaxed out of retirement after leaving football in 1937.  Nagurski was in his mid-thirties.  He was 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, had the size to play fullback today and the heart to play it in any era.  In his first professional football stretch, he played fullback and defensive line.  When he came back to the Bears, he played tackle.   

When the Bears were trailing the Cardinals in a must-win game at the end of the season, Bronko returned to his fullback position, scored a key touchdown, and turned the tide in favor of the Bears.  Bronko carried the ball repeatedly as the Bears seemed to dare the Cardinal defense to stop him. 

In later years, pro football fans might have been reminded of Bronko when Larry Csonka or John Riggins played.  Like Bronko, these guys were similar in build and played well in certain circumstances when the entire stadium knew they were getting the ball and no one could stop them.  Another player, who closely fit Nagurski's size and style of play was Marion Motley who played for Paul Brown.  Like Nagurski, Motley played both offense and defense. 

Nagurski returned again as fullback in the championship game in which the Bears beat the Washington Redskins 41–21.  The Bears had won three of the last four championships during this exceptional period.  

Nagurski was not the only offensive star that year.  Sid Luckman played extremely well for the Bears.  Luckman threw 202 passes and completed 110 for 2,194 yards.  He had 28 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. 

Sporting Chance Press More on Nagurski
University of Minnesota on Nagurski.
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