Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff: 29 Days with Ronnie Bull

Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears / Herb Weitman-USA TODAY Sports

Today marks the first time the Chicago Bears will play another team at Soldier Field in over seven months, but for the team's regular season debut, there are only 29 days remaining until the first Sunday of the NFL season. With the season getting closer day by day, today we celebrate by continuing Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff by looking at the life and career of the best player in franchise history to don the number 29, running back Ronnie Bull.

Ronnie Bull Goes From Baylor Bears to Chicago Bears in 1962 Draft

A native of Kingsville, Texas, Ronnie Bull's football career began as a running back at Bishop High School. His best season came as a senior, where Bull tallied nearly 2,500 rushing yards and 225 points, the latter of which led the nation, in 12 games en route to being named as an All-District, All-State, and All-American player.

Bull's high school production was revered nationally, but he elected to stay close to home at the next level and accepted a scholarship from Baylor University, where he joined the varsity team as a sophomore after sitting out his freshman season, an extremely common occurrence at this time.

In his first season with the varsity squad, Bull recorded nearly 650 total yards and five touchdowns. Unfortunately, the team struggled as a unit in what was coach John Bridgers' first year in command and posted a 4-6 record at the end of the year. However, by the second year with Bridgers and Bull leading the way, Baylor dramatically improved during the 1960 season and posted an 8-3 record behind the back's 700 all-purpose yards and eight total touchdowns. Bull finished his junior campaign as his conference's Most Valuable Player.

Bull's senior season provided similar production, and he finished the year with 640 total yards and eight touchdowns. The team dropped to a 6-5 record but capped off the season with a victory in the Gotham Bowl, where Bull totaled 86 all-purpose yards. He was named an All-American at the end of the season.

Following an impressive collegiate career, Bull was a highly touted prospect in both the AFL and NFL Draft. Regarded as one of the best players in his class, Bull was selected third by the Dallas Texans in the AFL, but elected to play for the Chicago Bears, who used the seventh overall pick to add the Baylor star. Bull was the first player selected by the team, and was the first running back selected.

Ronnie Bull Becomes NFL Champion with Chicago Bears

In his first year with the team, Bull was extremely successful despite not being the team's leading rusher. Bull played in all 14 games and even made ten starts where he logged nearly 700 total yards and a touchdown en route to being named as the NFL's Rookie of the Year. The following year, Bull remained a part-time starter in the backfield and was the team's lead back in nine of 13 games. Despite not leading the team in rushing again, Bull totaled over 500 yards and three touchdowns and helped the team claim the championship title for the 1963 season.

After the team's first title in nearly 20 years, Bull remained a strong contributor in the Bears backfield. In his third season, he made ten starts in 13 games where he totaled about 350 yards and a touchdown.

Before the 1965 season, Bull was moved to the fullback position after the team drafted college superstar Gale Sayers in the first round. However, Bull complained not, and quickly got the hold of his new position. In his first season as a fullback, Bull again started in 10 games and recorded over 600 offensive yards for the second time in his first four seasons.

Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears / Herb Weitman-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next couple of years, Sayers' rise to prominence would ultimately pull slightly from Bull's production, and he registered under 500 offensive yards in both 1966 and 1967. At this time, Brian Piccolo also worked into the Bears' backfield rotation, so Bull had even more teammates to compete with for touches, but the Baylor product remained a constant feature on offense, even if he wasn't the team's lead back.

During the 1968 season, Bull had his best year as a true fullback and ended the campaign with 617 total yards in 13 games, his highest ground mark since his rookie season. Unfortunately, he was kept to just six games the following season due to injury, and he would never quite be able to match his previous levels of production in the ensuing years.

Ronnie Bull Retires After Decade in NFL, Legacy with Chicago Bears

In 1970, Bull recorded 274 offensive yards in 12 games and five starts in what would end up being his final season with the Bears. Following the year, the back signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles where he recorded 426 yards and a touchdown in what would be his final year as a pro.

Following the 1971 season, Bull retired from the NFL after a 10-year career that saw nine seasons spent with the Chicago Bears. In the Windy City, Bull recorded 4,275 total yards and 13 offensive touchdowns. He ended with two seasons in the top 10 of the league in terms of yards per touch and had two seasons in the top six of the league in yards per carry. Bull, who was named the Rookie of the Year during his first season, also retired a league champion thanks to the team's 1963 dominance.

Bull's rushing total put him at 13th all-time in franchise history, an impressive feat for any player, let alone a back who had to share touches with a number of other talented rushers. In nine years with the Bears, Bull never once led the team in rushing yards, a seemingly odd occurrence for a former top 10 pick, but his ability to play a number of different positions in the backfield made him a valuable asset during an era of football that heavily depended upon one if not two, star rushers on a team's offense.

Bull has been recognized for his greatness on the gridiron in a number of ways. The Texas native was inducted into both the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame and the Baylor Athletics Hall of Fame. Following his career in the NFL, Bull utilized his Bachelor's degree in Business from Baylor and eventually set up his own firm Ronnie Bull Sales Inc. in 2002, where he remains today.