George McAfee dies at 90; college, pro football Hall of Famer

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George McAfee, who was an explosive threat playing both offense and defense for the Chicago Bears in the 1940s, died Wednesday in Durham, N.C. He was 90.

George McAfee obituary: The obituary of Hall of Fame Chicago Bears halfback George McAfee in Friday’s Section A said he died in Durham, N.C. He died in Snellville, Ga. —

Duke University, where McAfee was an All-American in 1939, announced his death. The cause was not given.

Nicknamed “One Play” for his ability to change the course of a game, McAfee was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1966.


Despite a pro career that lasted only eight years, sandwiched around a hitch in the Navy during World War II, the Bears retired his No. 5 jersey after his playing days ended.

Selected in the first round of the 1940 NFL draft, McAfee was a halfback, defensive back and dangerous punt and kick returner.

In his first regular-season pro game, he returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown and passed for another. In the NFL championship game at the end of that season, he intercepted a pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown, one of 10 Bears who scored in a 73-0 rout of the Washington Redskins. He wound up winning two more NFL titles with the Bears, in 1941 and 1946.

“The highest compliment you can pay any ball carrier is to just compare him with McAfee,” legendary Bears Coach George Halas was known to say of the 6-foot, 178-pound speedster.

Overall, McAfee scored 234 points, gained 5,313 all-purpose yards and intercepted 25 passes in eight seasons. He also averaged 12.78 yards on 112 punt returns, which stood as an NFL record for a number of years. In 1948, he led the league in punt-return yardage with 417 on 30 chances. That season he also recovered 11 fumbles, a league high.

He retired after the 1950 season and, according to Duke, operated an oil business in Durham.


George Anderson McAfee was born March 13, 1918, in Corbin, Ky., and grew up in Ironton, Ohio.

At Duke, he earned a football letter in 1937, ’38 and ‘39, a stretch during which the Blue Devils went 24-4-1 and won two Southern Conference titles. They played in the 1939 Rose Bowl, losing 7-3 to USC. McAfee also starred in baseball and track at Duke and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1961.