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Plank talks 46 defense on Roundtable

During a visit to Halas Hall this week, popular former Bears safety Doug Plank shared stories about his career with the team during a taping of Bears Roundtable.

Plank was selected by the Bears in the 12th round of the 1975 draft out of Ohio State and played all eight of his NFL seasons in Chicago.


Safety Doug Plank was part of two playoff teams during his career with the Bears in 1977 and 1979.

A wide receiver's worst nightmare, Plank was a devastating and feared hitter who teamed with Gary Fencik to form one of the league's top safety tandems.

Plank retired before the Bears won Super Bowl XX. But his presence was very much felt by the 1985 champions and continues to live on today through the famed "46 defense," which defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan named for Plank's uniform number.

Interestingly, Plank said on Bears Roundtable that the "46 defense" could very easily been named the "25 defense," the number he was originally issued as a rookie.

"The first couple weeks that I was here I was wearing No. 25," Plank said. "We traded for an All-Pro receiver from the Pittsburgh Steelers, Ron Shanklin. The first practice he got out there he saw me in 25. He goes, 'Rookie, you've got my jersey on!' I'll never forget this, over there at Lake Forest College, taking the shirt off and throwing it at him and then going downstairs and asking the equipment [manager], 'What else do you have?' He said, 'How about 46?' And I said, 'Sounds good to me.'"

Plank recalled when Ryan first created the 46 defense.

"He never called anybody by their name. You were either a number or you were an adjective and it usually wasn't a complimentary adjective," Plank said. "So I was a number; I was very thankful. He drew all the numbers on there and he brought me down from the free safety position and put me right in that middle linebacker position and circled my number three times and said 'we're going to call this the 46 defense.'

"No one really thought it was unusual because probably half the people in that room had something named after them—a blitz, a coverage, something. It just grew. As the organization put better players, more gifted players into that scheme, it became unstoppable."

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