When Doug Plank was playing football at Norwin High School in North Huntington Pennsylvania all he could think about was playing for his beloved Penn State University. But then on a recruiting trip a PSU scout told him that he was too small to be a defensive back at a major division one school.
Luckily for Plank, Earle Bruce, then an assistant at The Ohio State University was passing through the area. Bruce saw Doug and asked him how he felt about becoming a Buckeye. The rest, as they say, is collegiate football history.
After three years of playing defensive back under the venerable coach Woody Hayes at Ohio State, Plank was drafted by the Bears in the 12th round of the 1975 draft. Many of you will remember that draft for the running back the Bears drafted in the first round but that's another story (here's a hint: Doug's middle name is Walter).
Plank soon became known throughout the NFL as one of the league's fiercest hitters. His style was lead with the helmet and hit the target as hard as you can. Of course this style of play also earned him a rather dubious reputation of being a dirty player.
Remember, this was before spearing was so frowned upon by the league. There was no denying that the style worked as Plank led the Bears in tackles his rookie year.
Doug Plank played his entire 8 year career with the Bears and finished with 15 interceptions and almost that many concussions. Late in his playing days defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan developed a new defense that would soon make the Chicago Bears the most feared team in the league. It was basically an eight man front with one or two blitzers on every play.
He called his new defense the "46". Now I tell you this because many Chicago fans have always thought it was because there were four down lineman and six backers that Buddy chose to call it the "46" defense. It was not.
It was named after the uniform number of his hard hitting safety who always played one or two steps off the line of scrimmage and was sometimes coming after the quarterback and sometimes dropping back into coverage. Ryan once said "Saying the 46 is a simple eight man front scheme is like saying Marilyn Monroe was just a girl."
When Plank's career was prematurely ended by yet another concussion Ryan told him the new defense was going to make him famous. This was only semi-prophetic as I believe the jersey number is now far more famous than the man.
Soon after his retirement from professional football Plank moved to the Phoenix/Scottsdale area in Arizona where he became the owner of several Burger King franchises. After a very successful 15 year career in the fast food restaurant business Plank was called back into football.
In 2002 he became an assistant coach in the Arena Football League. He was soon promoted to being a head coach and in 2007 was named coach of the year while with the Georgia Force. This led to assistant coaching stints back in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets. After a few years away Plank is now back in the Arena league. In fact his new team, the Orlando Predators just recently lost in the playoffs to another of his old teams, the Philadelphia Soul.
So wherever he has gone success has followed. He is 60 years old now, with wife Nancy and two grown children. Son Michael, and daughter Andrea. He has said that he still loves Chicago and the time he got to spend here. I personally think it might be time to get back into the coaching ranks of the NFL. Coach Trestman, you listening?
Filed under: Uncategorized