You could make a case for Butkus being the most ferocious defensive player in the history of the game. Watching his highlights reel is akin to the worst horror films of the last five decades. The former Illinois Illini played in the NFL just nine seasons, but made the Pro Bowl in eight of them and was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year on two occasions. The Associated Press once ranked Butkus the fifth-best player in the history of the NFL, making him an easy first-ballot choice for the Hall of Fame in 1979. Not to be considered an athlete alone, Butkus has also starred in nearly 50 television programs and 14 movies since his retirement, including such classics as “Brian’s Song,” “Any Given Sunday,” “Necessary Roughness,” “The Last Boy Scout,” “Johnny Dangerously” and “Gremlins 2.”
RB/KR Gale Sayers
Whereas Dick Butkus had the scariest highlights of all time, Sayers could challenge in the most beautifully spectacular category. His running ability was second-to-none this league has ever seen, whether it was out of the backfield or on kick returns. Sayers led the NFL in return yards each of his first three seasons, averaging over 30 yards each time, including an astounding 37.7 yards in 1967. He also led the league in rushing twice, yards per game three times and total yards from scrimmage once. He was a five-time first-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler. Considering he played the equivalent of only five NFL seasons due to a catastrophic knee injury, those numbers – and the fact he was still voted to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1977 – prove what kind of an impact he had on the league during his short tenure.
LB Mike Singletary
Another life-time Chicago Bear, Singletary may be the greatest in a long line of Bears middle linebackers (yes, including Dick Butkus). Just as intense as his predecessor, “Samurai Mike” manned the middle for the “Monsters of the Midway” for 12 years, being named to the Pro Bowl 10 times and the NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice (‘85 and ’88). Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1998, he moved on to coaching, manning the San Francisco 49ers for two and a half years before being let go after registering an 18-22 record with the team. He’s now linebackers coach for the Minnesota Vikings and will forever be a legend in the city of Chicago.
RB Walter Payton
Quite possibly the most versatile running back the sport’s ever seen. Payton came from tiny Jackson State University, but rose to prominence quickly in the NFL, leading the league in rushing in just his third season and churning out the most rushing attempts in four of his first five years. Despite all those attempts, he missed just 12 games his entire career. His 1977 season is considered one of the greatest of all-time, as he rushed for 1,852 yards and 14 TDs in just 14 games, averaging 5.5 yards a carry. Payton retired as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher (16,726 yards) and had more than 20,000 total yards after his 13 seasons, all spent in Chicago. Not to be outdone, he also threw for eight scores. A nine-time Pro Bowler, he was a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1993. Unfortunately, his life was cut tragically short in 1999 when he died of liver failure at the age of 45.
QB Sid Luckman
Of all the QBs the Bears have gone through in their 87 years, Luckman is undoubtedly the greatest. Think Jim McMahon’s 1985 season was a good one? Well, Luckman led the Bears to four titles in 12 years. Only Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana can claim that. Considered by most the first great passing quarterback, Luckman was at the helm of the Bears during their memorable 73-0 victory over the Redskins in the 1940 championship game. The 1943 season was his best. Named league MVP that year, he threw for an incredible 28 TDs in just 10 games, including a 443-yard, seven-TD game. It was the first 400-yard performance in NFL history, and his three records for TDs in a season/game and yards in a game all lasted for decades. In fact, his seven passing TDs in a game is a record that still stands to this day (tied by four others). A Hall of Famer in 1965, Luckman still holds virtually all the Bears’ career passing records, despite never playing more than 12 games a season and throwing more than 230 passes just once.