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Home > Real Men > Sports > George Halas

George "Papa Bear" Halas


Born February 2, 1895, in Chicago, IL.
Died October 31, 1983.


George Halas graduated from the University of Illinois in 1918, where he starred in both football and baseball. He played for the New York Yankees in 1919, but retired because of an injury. He moved back to Illinois, where in 1920, working as recreational director for the Staley Starch Works, he formed the Decatur Staleys. Halas' Staleys went 13-1 that year.

George Papa Bear Halas Hall of Fame BustOn September 17th of the same year, Halas participated in a meeting at an automobile agency in Canton, Ohio that gave birth to the American Football Association. A year later, the AFA became the National Football League.

Already playing end and coaching the team, Halas took ownership in 1921 when Staley Starch Works President A.E. Staley decided his company could no longer afford to sponser a professional football team. Staley gave Halas $5,000 and told him to move the team to Chicago in 1921 with the condition that they keep the Staleys name for one year. A staunch Chicago Cubs fan, Halas arranged to lease Wrigley field from then Cubs owner Bill Veeck, Sr., and in 1922 renamed them the Bears.

Halas helped to save the game of football from possible extinction and ensure the popularity of professional football in the U.S. when he signed the Galloping Ghost, University of Illionois star running back Red Grange, in 1925 and went on a barnstorming tour of the country. Crowds for the tour ranged from good to great, and there was never again a doubt that football was here to stay.

Halas continued playing and coaching the Bears until 1929, when he retired from playing and briefly from coaching. He returned to his coaching position in 1933, coaching his Bears until 1942, when he retired because of World War II. His retirement this time ended with the war, as Halas returned to the sidelines in 1946. After one more brief retirement in 1956-57, Halas finally hung up his coach's clipboard for good in 1968 at age 73.

George HalasAlong with Clark Shaughnessy, Halas helped set the stage for today's wide-open football offenses by adding a man-in-motion to the classic T-Formation in the late 30's. The Bear's of the early 40's used this offense to become a power house, winning back to back championships in 1940 and '41. The Bears beat the Washington Redskins in the 1940 Championship Game 73-0, the largest victory in league history to this day.

Known as "Papa Bear" because of his long association with the team, Halas coached the Bears for 40 seasons. He won seven league championships, was voted NFL Coach of the Year in 1963 and '65, and ammassed 324 wins, which stood as a record for coaching wins until 1993. He was the only person to be associated with the NFL throughout its first 50 years, and in 1963 (five years before he officially retired as a coach), Papa Bear Halas was elected as a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.


"Find out what the other team wants to do. Then take it away from them."

"Nothing is work unless you'd rather be doing something else."

"If you live long enough, lots of nice things happen."

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George Halas at the Hall of Fame
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