From Nagurski to Ditka: Here are the Bears’ Retired Jersey Numbers

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The Chicago Bears have had some great players over the years, and as a result the team has retired a total of 14 jersey numbers, the most of any club in NFL history.

In fact, the Bears retired so many numbers that the team is no longer retiring jerseys, with former tight end Mike Ditka having the distinction of having the last retired number in team history.

So just who are the players who have been honored by the Bears with a jersey retirement? To answer that question, here are the 14 players whose jersey numbers adorn banners at Soldier Field.

3 – Bronko Nagurski

One of the charter members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963, Nagurski had a stellar nine-year career with the Bears, appearing in 97 games and rushing for 2,778 yards and 25 touchdowns. Nagurski originally retired after the 1937 season, but after the Bears lost a slew of players to World War II service, he came out of retirement for eight games in 1943, rushing for 84 yards and a touchdown.

5 – George McAfee

A halfback, McAfee scored seven touchdowns in his first two NFL seasons, but after the 1941 season he enlisted in the United States Navy. He didn’t return to the gridiron until 1945, and after playing three games each in 1946 and 1947 he returned to football full-time in 1948. He ended his career with 1,685 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns, and also had 11 receiving touchdowns. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1966.

7 – George Halas

Primarily known as a head coach and an owner of the Bears, Halas also played a bit during his career, scoring one rushing touchdown, six receiving touchdowns, and three total return touchdowns. As a result of his playing career and his stellar coaching career, Halas’ number 7 jersey was retired by the team. His initials also appear on the sleeves of the team’s jerseys.

28 – Willie Galimore

Galimore had a sparkling career with the Bears in the late 1950s and early 1960s, registering 26 rushing touchdowns and 10 more receiving touchdowns. His career was cut tragically short in 1964 when he was killed in a car accident in Rensselaer, Indiana at the age of 29.

34 – Walter Payton

When Payton retired in 1987, he was the NFL’s all-time leader in rushing yards, with 16,726, and he still holds Bears records for most career rushing touchdowns and receptions. He made nine Pro Bowls and was a First Team All-Pro member on five different occasions. He is also the only player in Bears history to win Associated Press MVP honors, doing so in 1977. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1993.  

40 – Gale Sayers

The “Kansas Comet” had his career cut short by injuries, but in just seven years he made a huge impact on the franchise. He rushed for 4,956 career yards and 39 touchdowns and he hauled in 112 receptions for 1,307 yards and nine touchdowns in the passing game. He was a five-time First Team All-Pro, and made four Pro Bowls. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977.

41 – Brian Piccolo

Piccolo had a remarkable journey to the NFL, trying out for the Bears as a free agent and making the team in 1965. He made the main roster the next year, befriending Gale Sayers in the process. He ran for 450 yards and two touchdowns in 1968, and was promoted to a starting role. The following season, Piccolo was diagnosed with embryonal cell carcinoma, which had spread to his chest. The cancer then spread to other organs, and he passed away at the age of 26.

42 – Sid Luckman

Before Jay Cutler came along, Luckman held a slew of Bears passing records, including passing yards (14,686) and touchdowns (137). He won the Joe Carr Trophy as NFL MVP in 1943, was named to three Pro Bowls, and was a first team All-Pro member five times. He was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 1965.

51 – Dick Butkus

A product of the University of Illinois, Butkus didn’t have to travel far or change his wardrobe much when he was drafted by the Bears in 1965. The fearsome linebacker was a hellacious hitter, intimidating players all over the field. He was also an athletic marvel, intercepting 22 passes in his career. He made eight Pro Bowls, and was named to the Hall of Fame in 1979.

56 – Bill Hewitt

Hewitt played for the Bears for five seasons in the 1930s, catching 52 passes for 939 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was named a First Team All-Pro on four different occasions, and led the NFL in receiving touchdowns in 1934. After being traded to the Eagles, he was killed in a car crash in Sept. 1946 at the age of 37. He was elected to the Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

61 – Bill George

George was a standout linebacker for 14 seasons with the Bears, playing in 159 career games and registering 17 recovered fumbles and 18 interceptions. He was named to eight Pro Bowls and the First Team All-Pro squad on eight occasions. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1974, and was killed in a car crash in 1982 in Rockford at the age of 52.

66 – Clyde Turner

“Bulldog” Turner played all 13 of his NFL seasons with the Bears, appearing in 138 games. He was a four-time Pro Bowler, a seven-time First Team All-Pro, and he led the league in interceptions in 1942 with eight. He was mainly known as a formidable offensive lineman, playing center for the Bears. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1960 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1966, and was named to the 1940s All-Decade team by the NFL. He passed away at the age of 79 in 1998.

77 – Red Grange

Grange attained collegiate glory at Illinois, and his signing by the Bears helped legitimize the NFL. He only played in seven seasons with the Bears, appearing in 83 games. He rushed for 21 touchdowns in his NFL career before retiring after the 1934 season. He was a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s first class in 1963.  

89 – Mike Ditka

 Drafted with the fifth overall pick in the 1961 NFL Draft, Ditka played six seasons with the Bears as a tight end, racking up 4,503 receiving yards and 43 touchdowns. He ultimately played in Philadelphia and Dallas to wrap up his NFL career, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988. His number 89 jersey was the final one to be retired by the Bears, as he was honored in 2013.

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