Undead Fullback Scores Touchdowns for Chicago Bears: The Strange Story of Jim Conzelman

Fun Fact Monk Fun Fact Monk
March 9, 2023
The Chicago Bears once drafted a player who turned out to be dead. In 1946, they selected fullback Jim Conzelman in the 30th round, not realizing that he had passed away a year earlier.

In 1946, the Chicago Bears thought they had found the perfect addition to their team: fullback Jim Conzelman. There was just one problem: he was dead.

The Bears, like many teams in the early years of the NFL, were not exactly known for their meticulous research. So when they saw Conzelman’s name on the draft board, they didn’t think twice about drafting him in the 30th round.

It wasn’t until a few days later that someone in the front office did a little digging and discovered that Conzelman had passed away a year earlier. The team was understandably embarrassed, but they tried to spin the situation as best they could.

“We knew Jim was a little quiet, but we had no idea he was that shy,” joked head coach George Halas.

The incident quickly became a running joke around the league, with other teams taunting the Bears by pretending to draft deceased players in later rounds.

But the Bears got the last laugh. That season, they went on to win the NFL championship, with a little help from their invisible fullback.

Legend has it that in crucial moments of the game, the Bears would call Conzelman’s name and the opposing defense would freeze in confusion, allowing the Bears to score. Some say they even saw his ghost on the field, blocking for the running back.

So while other teams may have snickered at the Bears for drafting a dead player, in the end, it was the Bears who had the last laugh. And Conzelman? He may have been dead, but he was definitely a team player.

More facts about Jim Conzelman

  • Conzelman was a standout athlete in college, playing both football and basketball at Washington University in St. Louis.
  • After his playing days were over, Conzelman became a successful coach, leading the Chicago Cardinals to an NFL championship in 1947.
  • Conzelman was known for his innovative offensive schemes, and is credited with inventing the “T-formation,” which is still used in football today.
  • Conzelman was also a skilled baseball player, and played in the major leagues for the St. Louis Browns in the early 1900s.
  • In addition to his sports career, Conzelman was a successful businessman, owning a car dealership in St. Louis.
  • Despite being dead at the time of the 1946 NFL draft, Conzelman’s name has appeared on several draft boards over the years, with teams jokingly selecting him in later rounds.
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