Some of the Bears Best Hometown Heroes


As a kid, there’s no doubt you grew up wondering what it would be like to play for your hometown team. To be that hometown hero, winning games for the team you grew up cheering and enduring heartbreak for is the ultimate dream which kids cling to throughout their childhoods.

In the wake of Chicago Bulls guard, and one of Chicago’s favorite sons, Derrick Rose’s trade to New York, here’s a list of the best Chicago and Chicagoland natives to don a Bears uniform:

Chris Zorich, DT, Chicago

Bears fans who remember the putrid decade that was the 90s can recall very little to be excited about. Defensive tackle Chris Zorich was one of those few.

An eventual Pro Bowl alternate in 1993, Zorich grew up on Chicago’s south side and attended the University of Notre Dame before getting drafted in the second round of the 1991 NFL Draft. Then head coach Mike Ditka was so enamored with Zorich, he had to be talked out of taking him in the first round that year.

Although injuries eventually ended his five-year career in Chicago, Zorich became a fan favorite and one of the only bright blips of the end of the Ditka era, the Wannstedt era and really the 1990s in general.

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John “Paddy” Driscoll, QB/End/K/Head Coach, Evanston

Hailing from Evanston, a Chicago suburb that’s pretty close to the city itself, Driscoll was one of the Bears first players and head coaches back during the franchise’s inception in the 1920s.

Playing end on defense, quarterback on offense and kicker, Driscoll embodied the term “all-around player.” Playing with the Chicago Cardinals, the other early-Chicago franchise, Driscoll single-handedly stuck it to the Bears. In fact, he was so notoriously good at beating the Bears, founder and player-coach George Halas desperately tried to get Driscoll on his squad.

Halas eventually did get Driscoll in 1926, and that addition payed off rather nicely: Driscoll was a first-team All-Pro selection in 1926 and 1927 for the Bears. Driscoll also coached the Bears in 1956 and 1957 when Halas retired in 1956, only to unretire in 1958.

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George Connor, OL/LB, Chicago

Another Hall of Famer and Chicago native, Conner was two-way standout for the Bears from 1948-1955. Playing on the offensive line and on defense at defensive tackle and linebacker, Connor was a five-time All-NFL selection, an All-NFL selection at his three positions, recorded seven interceptions and scooped up 10 fumbles.

One of the last great two-way players, Connor was an expert at diagnosing plays on defense and burst onto the scene against the Eagles and Steve Van Buren’s high powered offense. Connor, who played on both offensive and defensive lines, was moved to linebacker in an effort to stave off the Eagles and in the process created a prototype for future NFL linebackers.

While future Bears linebacker and Hall of Famer Bill George gets credit for creating the middle linebacker position, Connor was the inspiration for the quick yet hard-hitting linebacker.

Gary Fencik, S, Barrington

Embodying Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan’s preferred player, Fencik was both tough and intelligent. The Yale product hailed from Barrington, which like Evanston is another suburb close to Chicago.

A key member of the Super Bowl XX championship team, Fencik was a player who hit hard yet had an impeccable knowledge of the game. A two-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro selection in 1981, Fencik led the secondary of the legendary 46 Defense that many consider the best defense in NFL history.

Nowadays, if you look around the city of Chicago, you may even find Fencik who works as an executive for Adams Street Partners.

Dick Butkus, LB, Chicago

Is it any surprise one of the most feared and revered linebackers in Bears and NFL history hails from Chicago? We all know who Butkus is and if you don’t, then you haven’t gotten there in Bears history yet.

If George Conner invented the typical linebacker mold and Bill George invented the middle linebacker position, then Butkus perfected the middle linebacker position. A fixture in the middle of the Bears defense, the only thing that could slow Butkus were bad knees, which he suffered from even early on in his career.

Butkus may not have moved very fast going straightforward, but his lateral movement was so quick it made him a six-time All-Pro player. Combine that quickness with one of the best playing instincts and you get one of the most disruptive players in NFL history. By the time he retired, Butkus forced 47 turnovers. Twenty-two of those were interceptions, a then-NFL record.

If it weren’t for complications from a knee surgery, the Chicago native Butkus may still hold the NFL record for turnovers.

George Halas, E/Head Coach/Founder, Chicago

Yes, even the patriarch of the Bears, and one of the founders of the NFL, hails from Chicago. A Crane Tech High School alumnus, the Halas’ legacy goes back to 1920.

Leaving Chicago, Halas helped A. E. Staley start up a professional football team in Decatur, Illinois in 1920. In fact, Halas did so well with the Decatur Staleys, he was the one who represented the Staleys in a highly-revered meeting in Canton, Ohio, where the NFL itself was conceived. Once the Staleys were an official professional team, Mr. Staley himself gave Halas $5,000 to move the team to Halas’s native city of Chicago.

From then on, Halas went from a player-coach on the Bears to the head coach and finally to the owner of the Bears. By the time Halas retired for good, he owned an NFL-record 324 victories, eight NFL titles and a 40-year coaching career. Over that stretch, Halas only had six teams that finished with a record under .500. He had such an influence on the NFL, he even saved the Green Bay Packers from folding in 1956.

*Editor’s note: I wish he would have let them fold.

It’s fitting, or rather an epic coincidence, that the greatest Bear to ever live was a Chicago native. Either way, if history proves anything, Chicagoans make the best Bears. Ryan Pace, take note.

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Those who are from the Chicagoland area but didn’t play for the Bears: Otto Graham (Cleveland, QB, Waukegan), Donovan McNabb (Philadelphia, QB, Chicago), Rashard Mendenhall (Pittsburgh, RB, Skokie), Mike Alstott (Tampa Bay, RB/FB, Joliet), Ray Nitschke (Green Bay, LB, Evanston).