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.
We continue the countdown with an oldie but a goodie, as we honor offensive lineman Danny Fortmann by slotting him in at number 19 on our list.
Drafted in the final round of the 1936 Draft, Fortmann was reported chosen by the Bears because George Halas liked his name. Halas may have also been impressed by the lineman’s intellect, as he eventually worked his way through medical school while playing for the Bears. He earned his degree from Colgate and graduated from the University of Chicago’s medical school, and even while doing all of that he managed to become the youngest starting player in the NFL and eventually was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1965.
Even though he only played in eight seasons in his NFL career, Fortmann still had some pretty good campaigns. His team won three NFL championships, and to his credit Fortmann was either first or second All-Pro in every one of his seasons with the Bears. He also made some magic happen on the defensive side of the ball during the 1942 season with the Bears, picking up four interceptions on the campaign.
After his playing career was over, Fortmann entered the medical field and became a surgeon in California. He served as the team physician for the Los Angeles Rams for a span of about 16 years after he retired.
Obviously it’s really difficult to discuss the exploits of offensive linemen who played the game back during the pre-merger days, but looking at Fortmann’s accomplishments as a ninth-round draft pick shows just how great of a player he was. He was named to the NFL’s 50th and 75th Anniversary All-Time Teams, and was a Pro Bowl selection on three different occasions, so clearly he stacked up well against other players from his era.
Other players will have gaudier statistics and play more visible positions on the field, but a guy like Fortmann is critical both for his versatility and for his consistency.