Bill George
No. 72, 61
Personal information
Born:(1929-10-27)October 27, 1929
Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died:September 30, 1982(1982-09-30) (aged 52)
Rockford, Illinois, U.S.
Height:6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight:237 lb (108 kg)
Career information
High school:Waynesburg Central
(Waynesburg, Pennsylvania)
College:Wake Forest
NFL draft:1951 / Round: 2 / Pick: 23
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:173
Fumble recoveries:19
Player stats at PFR
Medal record
Collegiate Wrestling
Representing the Wake Forest Demon Deacons
SoCon Championships
Gold medal – first place 1948 Lexington Heavyweight
Gold medal – first place 1949 Lexington Heavyweight
Gold medal – first place 1952 Lexington Heavyweight

William J. George (October 27, 1929 – September 30, 1982) was an American football linebacker who played for the Chicago Bears and the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League (NFL).

George was born in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania, about 50 miles south of Pittsburgh. He is among numerous legendary football players born in football-rich Western Pennsylvania. He played college football for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and was the Bears second-round draft pick in 1951.

College career

George at a collegian at Wake Forest in 1949.

During his time playing at Wake Forest, George became the first All-American football player in team history and was a three-time selection to the All-Southern Conference Team. George was also a standout wrestler in high school and although Wake Forest did not field a wrestling team, he entered the Southern Conference wrestling tournament as an individual competitor without a team and won on three occasions at heavyweight. He was inducted into the Wake Forest Sports Hall of Fame in 1998.[1]

Professional career

He began his pro football career the in 1952 as a middle guard in the then-standard five-man defensive front. He was selected to play in eight consecutive Pro Bowls, from 1954 to 1961. George is credited as the first true middle linebacker in football history and, inadvertently, the creator of the 4–3 defense.[2] Noting during a 1954 game with the Philadelphia Eagles that his tendency to hit the center right after the snap led to the quarterback passing right over his head, he began to drop back from the line, not only enabling him to intercept and otherwise disrupt several passes from that game forward but also creating the familiar 4–3 setup (four linemen and three linebackers).

Hall of Famer Art Donovan had this to say about Bill George: "It's real hard to make the call, but the best linebacker I've ever seen play may have been the Bears' George. He was wild; he'd psyche himself up into a frenzy when he played. Then you'd meet him off the field and he was a completely different guy, another Clark Kent. And he'd line up anywhere on the field.... Quarterbacks would be going out of their mind looking to find out where the hell Bill George was."[3]

In addition to his 18 career interceptions, George also recovered 19 fumbles, and in 1954 scored 25 points on 13 PATs and four field goals. In 1963, he led the Bears defense when they won the NFL Championship.[4]

After football

George was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1974. The Bears retired his uniform number 61. Three of his successors as Chicago middle linebackers are also in the Hall of Fame: Dick Butkus (1965–1973), Mike Singletary (1981–1992) and Brian Urlacher (2000–2012).

In a 1989 article, in which he named his choices for the best athletes ever to wear each uniform number from 0 to 99, Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly not only chose George for number 61, but called him "the meanest Bear ever", no small thing considering the franchise's long history and reputation for toughness. In 1999, he was ranked number 49 on The Sporting News list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.


George's grave at Evergreen Cemetery

George was killed in an automobile accident in Rockford, Illinois on September 30, 1982.[5] He was buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Barrington, Illinois.


  1. ^ Bill George (1998) - Wake Forest Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved January 29, 2024.
  2. ^ Rand, p. 84.
  3. ^ Donovan, Arthur (1987). Fatso: Football When Men Were Really Men. W. Morrow. p. 161. ISBN 0-688-07340-9.
  4. ^ Youmans and Youmans, Chapter 4.
  5. ^ UPI "Bill George, Bears Linebacker". October 1, 1982. The New York Times. retrieved June 24, 2013. (subscription required)