Chuck Bednarik holds a grudge only slightly larger than his legacy as the last of the 60-minute men.
Known for his hard-nosed play and big hits, Bednarik is just as well-known for his biting, blunt diatribes about today’s NFL, Philadelphia Eagle owner Jeffrey Lurie and any other topic that reminds him the game isn’t the same as when he played.
He also is protective of his Hall of Fame legacy. While he boasts about playing both center and linebacker for part of his 14-year career, Bednarik is equally proud to have played on the last Eagle team to win a championship (1960).
That’s why Bednarik will be rooting against the Eagles in the Super Bowl against New England. He has no desire to ever see the franchise win another title.
“I can’t wait until the Super Bowl is over,” said Bednarik, who played for the Eagles from 1949 to 1962. “I hope the 1960 team remains the last one to win. I hope it stays that way.”
Bednarik admits he’s resentful of the salaries and spotlight today’s players receive, calling them “overpaid and underplayed.” He says he never made more than $27,000 and supplemented his income with an afternoon job selling concrete, earning him the nickname “Concrete Charlie.”
“How would you feel sitting there knowing what transpired when I played?” said Bednarik, who lives in Coopersburg, Pa.
Bednarik, 79, has distanced himself from the team since a 1996 visit with Lurie when the owner refused to buy 100 copies of his book at $15 a pop to distribute to the team.
Bednarik only reluctantly showed up for a reunion because the organization surprised him by agreeing to his demand for a limousine. Bednarik still watches football and likes Eagle Coach Andy Reid because his stoic demeanor reminds him of Buck Shaw, the coach of the 1960 team.
“Andy’s just a nice person,” Bednarik said.
Appropriately, a man who worked in concrete forever cemented his stature as one of the legendary Eagles with two of the most celebrated hits in team history in 1960.
He knocked out New York’s Frank Gifford with a blow so ferocious -- and legal -- that the Giant running back suffered a concussion and didn’t play again until 1962. Then there was Bednarik’s game-saving tackle of Green Bay’s Jim Taylor on the final play of the ’60 title game.
Bednarik refused to let Taylor up as the final seconds ticked off, allowing the Eagles to hang on for a 17-13 championship win on Dec. 26, 1960, in Franklin Field.
“Everybody reminds me of it and I’m happy they remind me of it,” Bednarik said. “I’m proud and delighted to have played in that game.”
He said he could have kept playing if he needed to, unlike today’s players who “suck air after five plays.”
In 1996, Deion Sanders played regularly on both offense and defense for the Dallas Cowboys, becoming the NFL’s first two-way starter since Bednarik in 1962. Bednarik was not impressed.
“The positions I played, every play, I was making contact, not like that ... Deion Sanders,” Bednarik said. “He couldn’t tackle my wife. He’s back there dancing out there instead of hitting.”
He also doesn’t like Terrell Owens, because his showboating style is the antithesis of the type of players with whom he played.
“I hope somebody knocks him unconscious,” Bednarik said. “He ruins the rest of the team.”