Do you know who Gene Schroeder is?

You should if you're a true Bears fan.

Their 1951 first-round draft pick, the 12th player taken overall, has lived in Crown Point since 1975.

A wide receiver from Virginia with 9.7 speed in the 100, Schroeder loved football so much, he played his last four NFL seasons, 1954 to 1957, with a torn ACL.

There were no corrective knee surgeries then, so the 6-foot-4, 192-pound Schroeder would simply have his swollen knee drained, taped, then go play.

He actually relished playing for coach George Halas, long-perceived as an ornery cheapskate.

"I love that organization. They are so good to ex-players; just amazing," said the 85-year-old Schroeder.

"On my 80th birthday, they sent me a Bears coaching jacket. And when my wife Doris died in 2013, I was having a real rough year and they wanted to send me a 'present' – an actual game helmet."

Schroeder doubted he could've played wearing head gear that large, that heavy, and with a mouth guard.

"I could sit here and talk to you for half an hour about what Coach Halas did for me," he said. "He was so good to me. I was well paid. I made more money than some of the guys who are in the Hall of Fame."

The most Gene Schroeder earned in a season was $10,000. His first Bears contract was for $7,000.

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Public school teachers were making $2,400, he noted.

"I got a raise every year and a bonus every year," added Schroeder, who missed the '53 season while serving at Great Lakes Naval Base. "When I got out, I went to (Halas) and he gave me 25 percent of my next year's salary to buy a house."

Schroeder's 64-game career with Chicago featured 104 receptions for 1,870 yards and 13 touchdowns at a time when the short-passing game did not exist.

Halas wanted his quarterbacks to throw down field if the Bears weren't running the football.

Schroeder's four catches for 150 yards and two TDs against the Chicago Cardinals in '51 still stands as the third-best single-game average gain (37.5) in team history.

The native of Washington D.C. made the NFL All-Rookie Team as a wide receiver and safety, leading the Bears with five interceptions that season and playing both positions in the '53 Pro Bowl.

Schroeder still hasn't gotten over his Bears' 47-7 drubbing by the Giants in the 1956 NFL Championship game that capped a 9-2-1 season.

"If you just gave Halas 100 percent, he was the most loyal person to play for," Schroeder said. "The whole organization ... Virginia McCaskey was there when I was playing. An amazing person.

"Back then, everybody wanted to play for the Bears. They were a first-class operation. We were the only team that got paid for exhibition games."

Schroeder says days are still difficult without Doris, his wife of 60 years. He'll be watching tonight's preseason game with Jacksonville, hoping another Super Bowl is within reach for his one-time employer.

"I love 'em. And I'm blessed," he said of his many Hall of Fame teammates. "I played with that bad leg for four years. My final year, I just couldn't take the pain no more."


Sports Copy Editor

Jim is a copy editor for The Times who works out of Valparaiso. A South Central High School (1984) and Ball State ('89) grad, he’s covered preps most of his career. He received the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association’s Media Award in 1997.