Franklin Field may be the most historic football stadium in the country, but it has few physical commemorations to the greats who have taken its field.
That changed in a big way Saturday.
During halftime of the Penn-Cornell game, Penn unveiled a larger-than-life statue of football legend Chuck Bednarik that will be placed at Gate 2 on the North Side of Franklin Field. Bednarik was a three-time All-American for the Quakers, eight-time All-Pro for the Philadelphia Eagles and an NFL Hall of Famer.
One couldn’t have picked a better location to commemorate “Concrete Charlie.” Though Bednarik’s collegiate career ended in 1949, he was drafted by the Eagles with the first pick of the NFL draft that year, and later returned to Franklin Field when the Eagles called the stadium their home.
From the first time Bednarik took the field — Sept. 29, 1945, in a 50-0 blowout win against Brown — to his historic tackle against Jim Taylor, which prevented a Packers’ touchdown and clinched the Eagles’ NFL Championship win in 1960, Franklin Field was Bednarik’s home.
“This is a great place,” Bednarik said before the unveiling. “Nobody has a nicer stadium than this.”
While the statue is now completed, many still wonder why it took so long for the tribute to come about.
Ken Safarowic, Bednarik’s son-in-law and the main force behind making the statue a reality, mentioned many people had suggested to him that there should have been some dedication to Bednarik. According to Safarowic, one of the most ardent proposers of the idea for a statue was John Chaney, former basketball coach at Temple.
Over the past year, Safarowic raised money to build the statue and reached out to the official sculptor for the Basketball Hall of Fame, Brian Hanlon, to create the statue. Safarowic noted it was remarkable how quickly the money was raised for the $100,000 project, and said loyal teammates of Bednarik, and former Eagles head coach Dick Vermeil were instrumental in fundraising.
While Vermeil coached after Bednarik’s time, the two developed a close relationship. Vermeil has always held Bednarik in high regard, and wanted to make Bednarik part of Philadelphia’s football culture once again when Vermeil became head coach of the Eagles in 1976.
“They could have made [the statue] out of gold because he’s so unique,” Vermeil said. “He was a symbol of winning.”
The statue solidifies Bednarik as a symbol of Philadelphia sports greatness.
Bednarik received further praise from a plethora of sources Saturday.
“He wore number 60 because he played sixty minutes,” Ed Rendell, Pennsylvania’s former governor, said at halftime, referring to Bednarik’s status as the last of the Sixty Minute Men of the NFL — players who played offense and defense.
Even if it took decades to come about, the statue will remain permanently in the stadium he called home for his legendary career.
And who knows, maybe other statues will join Bednarik’s. As Safarowic half jested, this might “start a statue craze.”Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.