The Chicago Bears are one of the greatest franchises in NFL history.
The Bears have eight NFL Championships and one Super Bowl and they hold the record for the most Pro Football Hall of Famers with 30 primary members, and seven more enshrinees who spent a portion of their career with the franchise. Chicago also has 14 retired jersey numbers, which is the most in the NFL.
It’s certainly difficult to leave players like Mike Ditka, Sid Luckman, Dan Hampton, Richard Dent and Brian Urlacher off a list of the greatest Bears players, but when you’re only one of two franchises — the Arizona Cardinals being the other — from the NFL’s founding in 1920, it’s inevitable that you have some of the most exclusive players to play in the league.
Chicago has produced some of the best players in league history since its existence, but who would be on a Mount Rushmore of Bears players? Take a look at the list below.
Dick Butkus was an all-time great linebacker for the Bears. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images via Getty Images)
Dick Butkus, viewed as the “gold standard by which other middle linebackers are measured,” was born in Chicago, he played college football for the University of Illinois and spent his entire nine-year Hall of Fame career with the Bears.
Butkus, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1969 and 1970, was an eight-time Pro Bowler, six-time first-team All-Pro and two-time second-team All-Pro selection. In 2009, the NFL Network named Butkus as the “most feared tackler of all-time.”
Butkus, whose No. 51 is retired by the Bears, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979, he was a member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team as well as the 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, and he was also a part of the 1960s and 1970s NFL All-Decade teams.
Walter Payton, nicknamed “Sweetness,” is the greatest running back in franchise history. (Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images)
Walter Payton, nicknamed “Sweetness,” is regarded as one of the greatest running backs in NFL history. Over a career that spanned 13 seasons with the Bears, Payton was a nine-time Pro Bowler and eight-time All-Pro selection, seven of which were first-team honors. Payton missed only one game in his career because of a coach’s decision, even though he was eligible to play.
Payton, the NFL MVP in 1977, was also the NFL Man of the Year in 1977 — now called the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award — which is presented to a player in the NFL each year honoring their volunteer and charity work, as well as their performance on the field.
Payton was the NFL’s rushing leader and rushing touchdowns leader in 1977, he led the league in rushing attempts four times, and he’s a member of the 1970s and 1980s All-Decade teams, as well as the NFL’s 75th Anniversary and 100th Anniversary All-Time teams.
The Bears retired Payton’s No. 34 jersey, and he was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993. In September 2019, the Chicago Tribune named Payton the greatest Bears player of all-time.
Although he had a short career, Gale Sayers was one of the best players to suit up for the Bears. (Associated Press)
Gale Sayers spent seven NFL seasons with the Bears from 1965 to 1971; however, due to injuries, he only played in five seasons but he made the most of it. Sayers was a five-time first-team All-Pro, four-time Pro Bowler, NFL Rookie of the Year in 1965, and NFL Comeback Player of the Year in 1969. He suffered a left knee injury in 1970, and he dealt with a handful of other injuries that kept him sidelined for the majority of his final two seasons in the league.
Sayers, who led the league in rushing two times, scored 22 touchdowns during his rookie campaign — which was an NFL record at the time — and had 2,272 all-purpose yards. In 1968, he suffered a right knee injury and missed five games, but he came back the following year and led the league in rushing and was named the Comeback Player of the Year.
Sayers, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977, is the youngest player to be enshrined at 34 years old. He was also a member of the 1960s All-Decade Team, and the 50th, 75th, and 100th Anniversary All-Time teams. His No. 40 jersey is retired by the Bears.
Mike Singletary was the heart and soul of the 1985 Chicago Bears’ defense. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Mike Singletary, known as “the heart of the defense,” for arguably the greatest defensive unit in the history of the league, was a second-round pick of the Bears in the 1981 NFL Draft. For his stellar play at linebacker in defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan’s “46” defense, Singletary won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 1985, and led the Bears to their lone Super Bowl title that same season.
Singletary, who also won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1988, was a 10-time Pro Bowler, nine-time All-Pro selection, eight of which were first-team honors, and NFL Man of the Year in 1990.
Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998, Singletary was also a part of the 1980s All-Decade Team.