As the NFL Draft approaches, Grizzly Detail is counting down the Top 30 draft picks in Chicago Bears history. In order to qualify for this list, a player must have worn a Bears uniform for at least five seasons (sorry Rosevelt Colvin and Wilber Marshall), and players who were selected in lower rounds of the draft will have an advantage in the countdown.
For this slot, we went with a player who was one of the key pieces to the Bears’ secondary during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, as we slot Doug Plank into the number 12 spot on our countdown.
With the 291st overall pick (12th round) in the 1975 NFL Draft, the Bears selected Plank out of the Ohio State University. The Buckeye played his college ball under Woody Hayes, and under the legendary tactician’s guidance, Plank played in three consecutive Rose Bowls and won three consecutive Big Ten titles in his collegiate career. Despite all of that success, the Bears took Plank on as a flyer, and he ended up having an excellent career for them, playing in 101 games and starting 96 of them in his eight year NFL career.
Patrolling the secondary as both a strong safety and a free safety during his eight year career, Plank had a couple of great seasons in 1976 and 1977. In both of those campaigns, Plank intercepted four passes, and he started 25 combined games in those two seasons. He recovered four fumbles for the Bears during the 1977 campaign, and was regarded as one of the top safeties in the game for his play that year.
Ever since Plank retired from the NFL, he has been doing a lot of coaching. He was the defensive coordinator for the Arizona Rattlers in the Arena Football League, and he has been a head coach of several other teams in that league, including the Georgia Force and the Orlando Predators. He resigned as the coach of the latter team after the 2013 season, but he is still an active voter in the college football polls.
Plank doesn’t have the gaudiest numbers, but it was his jersey number that inspired the name of Buddy Ryan’s famous 46 defense, which led the Bears to the 1986 Super Bowl championship. Here is how author Rich Cohen described Plank in his recent book “Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football”:
“Of all the Bears I spent time with, my favorite was Doug Plank. He was off the roster by ’85 yet remained the spirit of the team, the personification of the vicious, hard-hitting 46, the defensive scheme that defined the bears in the 1980s….
“Judged by today’s standards, Plank told me his entire career would be considered a penalty, an endless whistle blowing in the canyons of hell.”
That kind of description is perfect when discussing Plank’s legacy. A hard-hitting safety with no regard for his own safety, Plank personified football during the era in which he played, and even though he was just a 12th round pick, he turned into a heck of a player for the Bears, thus earning this slot near the top 10 of the countdown.