My Chicago Bears fandom really started consuming me in the early 1980s, which is also when I started to play organized football for the first time, and that’s also when my dreams of high stepping across the goal line died.
I was always a big kid, but in my youth I dreamed of running the ball and scoring touchdowns, and it wasn’t until I left the pickup games with friends that I truly realized I would never be the next Walter Payton.
With my future now clearly on the offensive line, I turned my attention to the tackles on the Bears, and it was big number 78 Keith Van Horne that caught my eye. It wasn’t his technique that lured me in, it was him rushing to throw defenders off his teammates when they got a little too rough.
He was the Bears enforcer on a team full of tough guys during his 13-year career, and his badassery was on display each week.
This passage from the Chicago Tribune where Van Horne was named number 68 in their top 100 Bears list stood out to me.
“(Jimbo) Covert got all the pub, but Van Horne was a bad dude who got the job done right and took care of Walter (Payton) if things got ugly,” the Tribune’s John Mullin said.
The 6-foot-6, 280-pound Van Horne was the most likely Bear to step in if he saw a teammate being wronged. He was ejected from a 1986 preseason game for taking on the entire Cardinals sideline after receiver Keith Ortego was kicked by cornerback Lionel Washington.
“Fifteen to one was uneven odds,” Van Horne told the Tribune’s Mike Kiley on Aug. 25, 1986. “Next time I will choose my location better. ... I’d do it again because nobody is going to cheap-shot a teammate. ... I wasn’t going to take it.”
FYI... Van Horne was number 51 in the Bears top 100 list from their Centennial Scrapbook and he was 53 in WCG’s top 100 Bears players list.
The more I watched Van Horne play, the more I realized he was a tone setter for the Bears offense, because he played the game with an edge. He didn’t cross the line, but he did stroll right up to it and taunt it form time to time.
His 186 games played in Chicago is 7th all-time, and it’s 2nd most among offensive linemen behind Olin Kreutz — another of my all-time favs.
Van Horne helped the Bears to four consecutive rushing titles, but he never really got the respect he should have during his time. He never made a Pro Bowl, and when fans think back on those Bears teams of the 80s he’s often overlooked.
I think he’s more appreciated now, as evidenced by his inclusion on the all-time Bears’ player lists, than he was when he played.
Now it’s your turn.
Who is your all time favorite Bears offensive lineman?