A Closer Look at Illinois Hall of Fame Inductee George Halas

George Halas played football, baseball and basketball at Illinois, helping the Illini to the 1918 Big Ten football championship under Bob Zuppke. He graduated from the UI with a degree in civil engineering.

While serving as an ensign in the Navy during World War I, he played for a team at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station and was named MVP of the 1919 Rose Bowl after receiving a touchdown and returning an interception 77 yards in a 17-0 win.

Afterwards, Halas played minor league baseball, eventually earning a promotion to the New York Yankees, where he played 12 games as an outfielder in 1919 before a hip injury effectively ended his baseball career. In 1920, Halas represented the A.E. Staley Company at the meeting which formed the American Professional Football Association (which became the NFL), and after one year, moved the team to Chicago where they eventually became the Bears. He was player-coach for the Bears for 10 years until 1930 but remained as club owner.

Halas eventually returned to coaching and in 40 years as head coach, he endured only six losing seasons while compiling a record of 318-148-31 and winning six NFL championships. He added two additional championships as owner. His No. 7 is retired by the Bears.

Halas was named a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963. Halas' last year as coach was in 1967, and he remained as owner until his death in 1983 at the age of 88. A pioneer both on and off the field, the George Halas Trophy is awarded by the NFL to the National Football Conference champion and the Pro Football Hall of Fame is located on George Halas Drive.