Chicago lost one of it’s true sports heroes over the past weekend. And while it was merely a blip on the radar screen of the national media, it was felt deeply by many of the Bears family and fans who knew of his brilliance on the football field.
Casares was drafted by the Bears in the second round of the 1954 draft, after an illustrious college career in which he garnered an honorable mention to the All-American team. But he could not immediately report for duty in Chicago because he was drafted by another, more important team; The United States Military.
After serving his country in the Army he was finally allowed to report to the Bears in 1955. He would make an immediate impact. When he made his pro debut the 24 year old rookie was a bigger, stronger and more mature fullback.
Rick’s career in Chicago skyrocketed from the very beginning. He led the team in rushing every year from 1955 through 1960. In ’56 he carried the ball 235 times for 1126 yards. At the time it was the second most yards gained in NFL history.
In all, Casares played ten years in Chicago, gaining 5657 yards on 1386 carries with 49 touchdowns. When he left the Bears to play for the Washington Redskins in 1965 he was the Bears’ all-time leading rusher. He is still 3rd on that distinguished list. He also made the Pro Bowl five times.
After his playing days he quietly retired to his native home of Tampa, Florida where he spent his remaining years with his wife Polly, whom Rick met while he was at the University of Florida.
Upon his death at the age of 82, Polly said; “Our mailbox was full every day. He answered everyone. He was just so flattered to be remembered.”
Former teammate on the 1963 world champions team and current Chicago icon Mike Ditka said that Rick Casares was the toughest guy he’d ever played with.
You know, too often former players are gone without anyone giving them more than a second thought. Well this week I’m giving a lot of thought to a man I wish I could have seen play for the Bears. My thoughts and prayers go out to Polly and the entire Casares family. God speed to you Rick.
And thank you for being such a great and proud part of our favorite team’s history.
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