Chicago Bears Top 100: #45 Joe Fortunato

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We’re heading into the dog days of the offseason, counting the days until the Chicago Bears 2014 season kicks off. Thanks to Bear Goggles On contributor and the fine editor of Blackhawk Up Keith Schultz’s suggestion, we’re going to do a Top 100 list of the all time Chicago Bears.  It’s a fun way to pass the time and take a stroll down memory lane.

The Bears drafted Joe Fortunato, an all-American LB/FB from Mississippi St, in the 7th round of the 1952 draft. The Bears had to wait until 1955 while Fortunato served in the army, but he was worth it. Fortunato moved into the starting lineup at outside linebacker and helped lead the Bears to the NFL Championship game in ’56, but they lost to the Giants 47-7. In 1958 Fortunato made the Pro Bowl for the first time and there would be quite a few more.

The Bears traded for LB Larry Morris, the “Brahma Bull”, before the ’59 season and he teamed with Fortunato and MLB Bill George to form one of the best linebacker groups in Bears history. The Bears defense led them to an NFL Championship in 1963 and ESPN ranked that team’s defense as the 9th best of all-time. Fortunato was one of the key players on that defense and one of the best LBs in the NFL, making the Pro Bowl for 4 consecutive years (62-65) and was 1st team all-Pro for three straight years (63-65).

Fortunato ended up retiring after the ’66 season ending a 12-year playing career with the Bears, but stuck around to coach linebackers in ’66 & ’67. I’ll admit I didn’t know much about Fortunato going into this post, but after doing some research he probably belongs higher on this list. They didn’t keep accurate defensive statistics in the 50s/60s, but Fortunato was a 5-time Pro Bowl selection, 3 time all-Pro, and a member of the Italian American Sports Hall of Fame.

What do you think of the ranking?  Too high?  Too low?  I guess you’ll have to check back to see who finished ahead of him to judge for yourself.  We’ll be counting down a different person each day as we inch our way to the September 7th season opener.

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