By Wanda Wiedman // @WandaW63
The Chicago Bears has a history of elite running backs with four of them enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Red Grange, an immortal part of football history once score five touchdowns in a single game for the University of Illinois. He was pursued by George “Papa Bear” Halas, became a Bear who brought in the crowd. He finished his career with a defensive tackle to help Chicago win 23-21 over the Giants.
Then came Bronko Nagurski, a symbol of terrifying, bone-crushing power. He was like a charging bull against any defense but was just as terrifying on defense when he tackled. But when it came to versatility on the field, Gale Sayers was like a twisting tornado in run plays, a kick and punt returner and receiver when needed. Walter Payton took that even further and added quarterback, punter, wide receiver and tackler.
Now add to the mix, Matt Forte‘. Selected in the second round of the 2008 NFL Draft out of Tulane University, Forte brought back the hoopla that came from watching an elite running back. Once he stepped foot on Soldier Field, he charged the defense like Nagurski, twisted in and out of defensive paths like Sayers, and receive and tackle like Payton. But there was one thing he had that surpassed them all; his ability to take off from the line of scrimmage. Forte owned the longest stretch of rushing yards for eight straight seasons with the Bears, a title Payton owned for 12 years prior.
Second behind Payton, Forte rushed for 8,602 yards, 487 receptions, 4,116 receiving yards by a running back, 12,718 yards from scrimmage, 24/100-yard rushing games, with 25 of those games with at least 150 yards from scrimmage. Forte also became the second-fastest player in NFL history to accumulate 8,000 yards rushing and 4,000 yards receiving just behind the one and only Marshall Faulk.
What Forte’ brought to Chicago was the most amazing, electrifying, three-down back since the previous four-horseman. When he took the field and would break out into a run, the entire stadium would stand on their feet, hands in the air already anticipating the touchdown he was about to make. And if he didn’t make the touchdown, the resounding applause would echo in unison at the attempt. Number 22 will forever belong to Matt Forte’.
Chicago will be forever grateful for the tradition of greatness Forte’ brought back to Chicago after Grange, Nagurski, Sayers, and Payton emblazoned before him. His character on and off the field is a testament to discipline, faith, and heart. Known for his off-season, workhorse regiment, Forte wore his Navy and Orange with pride and made sure that he left everything on the field on any given Sunday.
He proved his loyalty to the team who took a chance on him when he ended his retirement speech with the words, “God bless and Bear Down”.
Thank you, Matt, for what you brought to Chicago and what you mean to your fans!
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