NFL great, former Bears coach Dick Stanfel passes

 
By Renee Griffin
rgriffin@dailyherald.com
Updated 6/24/2015 5:08 PM
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  • Former Chicago Bears line coach Dick Stanfel, shown here during a game in 1992 with James 'Big Cat' Williams (71) and Keith Van Horne, passed away at age 87.

    Former Chicago Bears line coach Dick Stanfel, shown here during a game in 1992 with James 'Big Cat' Williams (71) and Keith Van Horne, passed away at age 87. Daily Herald file photo 1992

Dick Stanfel, considered at one time to be "the best offensive line coach in football" by Mike Ditka, passed away at age 87 at his home in Libertyville on June 22 after a long illness.

Stanfel was the Bears' offensive line coach from 1981 to 1992, working under Ditka and leading the line that paved the way for the Bears offense during the legendary 1985 season that ended in a Super Bowl XX victory.

During his 11 years in Chicago, Stanfel helped to mold offensive linemen such as Tom Thayer, Keith Van Horne, Mark Bortz, Jay Hilgenberg, and Jimbo Covert. Under his guidance, the line opened holes for Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton and provided protection for quarterback Jim McMahon.

"What (Stanfel) gave to us was the pride it takes to be a player in the NFL,'' said Hilgenberg to the Chicago Tribune after his former coach was nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. "On nights before games, he would talk to us about making sure the guy you were playing against the next day finished the game saying, 'Man, that was one tough S.O.B.' "

For Stanfel, the 1985 championship was his third NFL title. He first made his mark on the league as an All-Pro offensive lineman.

Drafted by the Lions in 1951 out of the University of San Francisco, he won two NFL Championships during his four seasons in Detroit and was named MVP in one of them, making him the only offensive lineman to earn that honor.

He was traded to Washington in 1956, and added three more Pro Bowl selections to the two he had earned with the Lions. In 2002, he was named one of the 70 Greatest players for Washington.

In recognition of his storied playing career, Stanfel was named to the 1950s All-Decade Team and nominated twice for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, once in 1993 and again in 2012.

Though he was voted to the Pro Bowl for the fifth time in 1958, Stanfel retired from the players' ranks that year to join the coaching staff at Notre Dame. He also spent time as an assistant coach at California before making the jump to the pros with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1964.

He worked as an assistant coach with the 49ers and Saints as well, including a four-game stint as interim head coach for New Orleans in 1980.

Stanfel joined the Bears in 1981, and when Ditka took the team's reins in 1982, he decided to keep Stanfel. The rest is history.

The San Francisco native continued to reside in Libertyville after leaving the Bears. He has three children who survive him: Richard Stanfel Jr. of Deerfield, Scott Stanfel of Lindenhurst, and Jon Stanfel of Libertyville. A sister and eight grandchildren survive him as well.

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