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Former line coach Stanfel passes away

The Bears lost a legend Monday when former offensive line coach Dick Stanfel passed away at his Libertyville home after a long illness. He was 87.

Stanfel served as Bears offensive line coach from 1981-92, tutoring a unit that helped lead the NFL in rushing four straight seasons from 1983-86 and win Super Bowl XX.

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Dick Stanfel
"He was everything to our offensive line," said former center Jay Hilgenberg, who was voted to seven Pro Bowls in 11 seasons under Stanfel. "He taught us how to be a dominating offensive line. He wanted guys who could go out and dominate the line of scrimmage. That's the way he taught it technically and I think our record speaks for itself."

As a player, Stanfel was a premier guard who was named to five Pro Bowls in seven seasons with the Lions (1952-55) and Redskins (1956-58). He was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1950s after helping the Lions win back-to-back NFL titles in 1952-53. Stanfel was named a senior nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993 and again in 2012.

"He demanded the best from you at all times," Hilgenberg said. "Dick was a great NFL player and guys like that who coach demand the same type of preparation and mentality."

"His credibility brought instant respect to every position he was coaching because with every single position there's a little bit of a different dynamic," said former guard Tom Thayer, who played his first eight NFL seasons under Stanfel. "That's where his greatness was."

Stanfel won back-to-back NFL championships with the Lions in 1952 and '53. He later worked as an assistant coach with the Eagles, 49ers and Saints before joining the Bears in 1981. When Mike Ditka became head coach the following year, he kept Stanfel on his staff.

In Chicago, Stanfel helped mold an offensive line that is still considered one of the best in NFL history. It consisted of Jimbo Covert at left tackle, Mark Bortz at left guard, Hilgenberg at center, Thayer at right guard and Keith Van Horne at right tackle.

"[Stanfel] was the reason we all developed," Thayer said. "He tweaked everything from the way you broke the huddle to the way you came out of a three-point stance to what you were thinking one step into the play.

"He told you how everything was going to unfold. He told you what to expect and how to know exactly what was going to happen. That was the greatest thing about coach Stanfel."

The visitation for Stanfel will be held at McMurrough Funeral Home in Libertyville, Ill., from 2-8 p.m. The funeral mass is scheduled for Monday at St. Joseph Church in Libertyville at 10 a.m. Interment with military honors will follow at Ascension Cemetery in Libertyville.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made to Gridiron Greats.

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