Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff: 66 Days with Clyde "Bulldog" Turner

Chicago Bears, Clyde Turner
Chicago Bears, Clyde Turner / Nate Fine/GettyImages

In just 66 days, the Chicago Bears will commence the 2023 season at home versus the Green Bay Packers, and to celebrate football inching closer and closer, today's edition of Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff will focus on the life and career of the best, and in this case, only, player in franchise history to wear the number 66, Clyde "Bulldog" Turner.

Bulldog Turner's path to the Chicago Bears

Hailing originally from Gatesville, Texas, Clyde Turner grew up in the nearby town of Sweetwater, where he would attend Newman High School. Turner joined the school's football team and participated as an offensive guard, but he struggled to find playing time for two main reasons.

First, Turner was very young for his class and graduated from school after four years at just 16 years old. Additionally, Turner weighed only 155 lbs give or take during his high school years, so he certainly had an uphill climb to get on the field.

Turner graduated from Newman in the spring of 1935, and after taking a year to work and save up, the now 190 lbs 18-year-old decided to attend Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. There, Turner joined the school's football team, where he officially adopted the nickname "Bulldog", reportedly to stand out and seem tougher to the coaching staff.

Whether it was Turner's amazing speed and strength or his nickname, Bulldog certainly left an impact, and after quickly earning starting spots at center and linebacker, the collegiate star led Hardin-Simmons to new levels of success in the late 1930s. In his three seasons as a varsity starter, the team saw a 23-3-2 cumulative record, including an undefeated record as a sophomore.

Following his final collegiate season, Turner was named a Consensus All-American at the center position and played in multiple All-Star games. Between his All-Star career and his play in these post-season games, Turner was starting to garner attention from several NFL franchises, mainly the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions.

The Lions attempted to bribe a draft-eligible Turner, offering the center cash to turn down draft selections by other teams. This strategy of course backfired, as the Chicago Bears beat them to it by selecting Turner with the 7th overall pick in the 1940 Draft. Detroit was subsequently fined for their involvement, adding insult to injury.

Bulldog Turner becomes multi-time champion with Chicago Bears

Nonetheless, Turner made an immediate impact as a rookie in 1940. Starting at both center and linebacker, as he would do consistently throughout his Chicago Bears tenure, Turner made the Pro Bowl in his first season. The following season, Turner received Pro Bowl and First-Team All-Pro nods, and helped the Bears win the NFL Championship, thanks in part to a 24-yard pick-six.

In his third season, Turner was once again named to the First-Team All-Pro after leading the league with eight interceptions on the year. After the regular season, the Bears and Turner won their second consecutive championship.

After a "down" 1942 season, where Turner was voted to the First-Team despite logging zero interceptions, the Bears returned to their championship ways in '43. After making another First-Team the following year, Turner's four-year All-Pro streak snapped in 1945, due to the player missing the majority of the season due to injury.

By 1946, a healthy Turner meant not only a return to the All-Pro team but a return by the team to the NFL Championship game, where the franchise won their fourth ring in six seasons, all of which Turner was on the roster for.

After winning what would end up being the final championship of his career, Turner would go on to play six more seasons with the Chicago Bears before retiring after the 1952 season. Turner ended with a 13-year career, all of which came with the Bears, that saw four championships, seven First-Team All-Pro selections, and four Pro Bowls.

Bulldog Turner's retirement and Chicago Bears' legacy

Statistically, Turner logged 127 starts throughout his career, mainly at the center and linebacker positions. With 17 total interceptions in his career, Turner is currently ranked 24th in franchise history, tied only alongside Mike Brown and Sid Luckman, who coincidentally attended Newman High School just a few years before Turner himself did many years prior.

After retiring from the Chicago Bears as a player, Turner elected to join the team as an assistant coach for the following 1952 season. The next season, Turner was an assistant at Baylor before returning to Chicago for a four-year assistant coaching stint. After an ensuing one-year gig as the New York Titans head coach, Turner retired from coaching after the 1962 season.

Despite stepping away from the game of football permanently, Turner received a number of awards and accolades in retirement. In 1960, Turner was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame and followed it up with an induction into the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1966.

Turner has also received a lot of praise and recognization from the Chicago Bears organization, starting with his iconic number 66 jersey being retired following his retirement. Turner was also named to the team's official Top 100 players list, as well as being named as a member of the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1940s.

Unfortunately, Turner's life away from football was marred by health-related issues, including a stroke in 1974 while visiting Chicago for business. With a number of additional problems, Turner moved back to Gatesville, Texas, where he remained for a number of years before passing away in 1998 at the age of 79.

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Being that Turner was the first and only player in franchise history to wear the number 66, the four-time NFL Champion and Hall of Fame inductee is a perfect player to remember with just 66 days until the start of the 2023 season, 80 years after Turner's peak.