We had so much fun doing our Countdown to Kickoff series last season that we decided to do it again. In case you’re new to the series, we’ll do a roster preview as we count down the days until the Chicago Bears September 7th season opener against the Buffalo Bills.
Now that OTAs have finished and the roster has been trimmed a little, it is now time for some down time for the players and unfortunately the fans. Just don’t call it a vacation.
Up next on our list of jersey numbers is one that hasn’t been worn in decades; jersey number 77 which of course belongs to “The Galloping Ghost” Red Grange.
There are stars, there are superstars, and there`s Red Grange. -Richard Crabb Historian/Family friend of Grange
George “Papa Bear” Halas signed Grange in November of 1925 after a stellar career at Illinois which saw Grange run for 3,637 yards and score 31 TDs and named an All-American 3 years in a row. Halas took the Bears and its new star on a barnstorming tour around the country, playing 17 games between Thanksgiving and mid-February; each stop saw crowds between 36,000 and 65,000 (up from an average of 5,000 per game) fans hoping to catch a glimpse of the ghost.
Grange played for the Bears for 1 season before his agent C.C. Pyle, started up his own league the American Football League and took Grange with him and his team the New York Yankees. The AFL lasted 1 year; the only team to survive was Pyle’s team which was absorbed into the NFL.
Grange suffered a knee injury in a game against the Bears in 1927 and unfortunately never regained the play making ability he once showcased.
In 1929 Grange returned to the Bears and became a standout defensive back. On his web page on Chicagobears.com it says this about his last professional game:
[t]he Bears and the Giants, the Bears were ahead, 23-21, in the game’s waning moments. The Giant wingback Dale Burnett broke into the open with only Grange in his way to bar the winning touchdown. Complicating the issue was he fact that Giant center Mel Hein was trailing Burnett to await a lateral if grange caught him. Grange reacted instantly, grabbing Burnett around the chest, smothering him high so that no lateral was possible. They were rolling to the ground when the gun sounded the end of the game. Chicago had won.
“The greatest defensive play I ever saw,” said winning coach Halas.
“The greatest defensive play I ever saw,” echoed losing coach.
Another interesting/funny story told about the Ghost was by Chris Berman after an interview with George Halas. Berman said:
I was interviewing George Halas and I asked him who is the greatest running back you ever saw. And he said, ‘That would be Red Grange.’ And I asked him if Grange was playing today, how many yards do you think he’d gain. And he said, ‘About 750, maybe 800 yards.’ And I said, ‘Well, 800 yards is just okay.’ He sat up in his chair and he said, ‘Son, you must remember one thing. Red Grange is 75 years old.’
Red Grange was one of the founding members of the NFL Hall Of Fame. He passed away on January 28 1991.
Be on the lookout for our Countdown to Kickoff series as we continue to work our way to the season opener on September 7th. We’re 77 days from kickoff. Are you ready???