Loss of a Legend
DURHAM, N.C. — NFL Hall of Fame running back George McAfee, who excelled at every level he played, died Wednesday at the age of 90.
McAfee was an All-Ohio running back for the Ironton Fighting Tigers and led the team to its first unbeaten season in 1935.
He went on to play at Duke University where he was a two-time All-American in 1938-39 and led the Blue Devils to a 24-4-1 record and two Southern Conference championships between 1937 and 1939.
He led Duke in rushing, receiving, scoring, kickoff returns, punt returns, interceptions and punting during his senior season as he led the team to an 8-1 record and earned first team All-America honors.
McAfee was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1966.
“George McAfee helped establish the proud tradition of the Chicago Bears. His versatility led to his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as he played offense, defense and special teams on three championship teams (1940, 1941, 1946),” the Bears said in a statement.
“George also served his country in the Navy during WWII. We are proud to have him as an integral part of our history and saddened by his passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
McAfee was the second player drafted in 1940 by the Chicago Bears and coach George Halas and played for the Bears from 1940-41 and 1945-50. His career was interrupted by a stint in the armed forces during World War II.
A triple threat and an explosive runner with the ability to go the distance at any time, McAfee earned the nickname “One Play McAfee.”
During his career with the Bears he scored 234 points, gained 5,313 yards and intercepted 25 passes. He held the record for punt return average at 12.78 yards and was the NFL punt return champion in 1948. His 75 yards punt return for a touchdown beat the Brooklyn Dodgers during his first exhibition game with the Bears.
In his rookie season, McAfee ran back a kickoff 93 yards and threw a touchdown pass to help the Bears beat their rival Green Bay. His 35-yard interception return helped led the Bears to a lopsided 73-0 win over the Washington Redskins in the 1940 NFL championship game.
The 6-foot, 178-pound McAfee led the NFL with a 7.3 yards per carry rushing average in 1941 and led the league with 12 touchdowns in 11 games as he was named all-league. Three of his scores were by receiving, one by punt return, one by kickoff return, and one by interception return as Chicago won their second straight league championship over the New York Giants.
Halas once called McAfee the “greatest running back I’ve ever coached.”
McAfee pioneered low-cut football shoes because he believed they improved his speed and elusiveness.