As the Chicago Bears prepare to kick off their centennial season, the team honored two of the greatest figures in franchise history with 12-foot tall statues outside of Soldier Field.
The Bears unveiled Tuesday statues of legendary running back Walter Payton and team founder George Halas outside of Gate 0 at Soldier Field. The new statues, which weigh in at approximately 3,000 pounds apiece, were uncovered during a ceremony two days before the Bears kick off the regular season against the Green Bay Packers.
“It is only appropriate that the father of professional football and the greatest player in the history of the game are being honored in this way, and perhaps no better time for the unveiling than as we kick off our centennial season,” Bears Chairman George McCaskey said in a statement.
Halas took over full control of the Decatur Staleys in 1921 and moved the team to Chicago, where they became the Bears. He also helped co-found the National Football League, and served as the Bears’ coach for four different stints, finally hanging up his whistle for good after the 1967 football season.
Halas won eight NFL championships with the Bears, and served as the chairman of the team until his death in 1983.
Payton was a seven-time NFL All-Pro team member, set the then-NFL record for career rushing yards with 16,726, and scored 110 career rushing touchdowns. His 21,264 all-purpose yards were also an NFL record at the time of his retirement.
Payton was named to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team, and his number 34 was retired by the team.