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"Concrete Charlie" Talks About Lehigh


(All these great photos courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Jim Deegan's blog on Lehigh Valley Live.)

What always strikes me about "Concrete Charlie" are his hands.  When you look at them, there's no mistaking that he played football his whole life and played with broken hands.  His fingers jut at angles that physically seem impossible - and they seem, against all reason, to have a football permanently in its grip.

Last week,  the "last of the sixty minute men", Penn graduate and Philadelphia Eagle legend LB/C Chuck Bednarik, was in town to promote his new book, "Concrete Charlie: An Oral History of Philadelphia's Great Football Legend" at a book signing.  Fortunately for all Lehigh fans, David Coulson of the Sports Network was also there to give the loquacious Bednarik an interview.   In his interview, "Concrete Charlie" talks fondly about where he developed his love for football: Lehigh University.  (More)






When Chuck Bednarik was a kid, growing up in a working-class neighborhood in Bethlehem, PA., he and his friends would sneak into Taylor Stadium at nearby Lehigh University for the chance to play football on a real grass field.

"There was this guy that used to always run us off the field," Bednarik said during a recent book-signing appearance at the Philadelphia Athletics Historical Society.

Showing the skill and agility that would serve him so well in an All-American football career at Penn and during his 12-year, NFL Hall of Fame career with the Philadelphia Eagles, Bednarik and his friends would escape unscathed, surviving to play another day.

"I would climb the fence and then went into the bottom of the concrete bleachers," Bednarik said. "I'd crawl down into the bottom until the game began and then I would sneak into the game."
 
It's a great interview, and one that focuses on his early days "about three blocks from Lehigh" and his days under George Munger at Penn.  While many interviewers choose to focus on his days as the last NFL player to play both ways (as both a center and a linebacker) or his famous hits on WR Frank Gifford and RB Jim Taylor or his (controversial) views on today's NFL players, Coulson chose to focus on Bednarik's history instead.  A true product of the Depression and World War II, "Chuck" does embody the feelings of many of his era - even if I don't always agree with them.

Chuck's siblings and cousins also have Lehigh connections as well.  One of his four brothers, John "Jeep" Bednarik, was an assistant football coach at Lehigh in the 1950s, and a generation of Bednariks have also been employed by Lehigh in many different capacities.  (I know, because I've met some of them.)

For guys who can't get enough of football history (like me), and those who relish in connections to Lehigh, this book seems like one to definitely pick up.

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