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Sprinkle's family ecstatic about HOF honor

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Sue Withers was thrilled when she received a phone call Wednesday morning informing her that her father, former Bears star defensive end Ed Sprinkle, had been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Sprinkle, who passed away in 2014 at the age of 90, played his entire 12-year NFL career with the Bears from 1944-55. He was named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1940s and was once described by George Halas as "the greatest pass rusher I've ever seen."

"I was ecstatic," Withers said of receiving a call from Hall of Fame president David Baker. "It's such a great honor for the family. It's something my father always wanted, and I hope he's looking down on us and giving us a high five."

Sprinkle helped the Bears win the 1946 NFL championship and was voted to four Pro Bowls. That number isn't higher only because the Pro Bowl wasn't created until 1950, his seventh season in the league.

Withers said that her father would occasionally discuss the possibility of being enshrined in the Hall of Fame, but not receiving that honor during his lifetime is something that he took in stride.

"It would come up in conversation because he did play hard and he had some good stats," Withers said. "But he didn't let it bother him all that much."

And now that Sprinkle has reached the pinnacle of the sport and will be inducted as part of the Class of 2020, how does Withers think her dad would feel?

"He was such a proud man," she said. "I think that he would be grateful that he was recognized for his accomplishments and that he is now going to be in the Hall of Fame."

Longtime pro football writer Dan Pompei, the Chicago representative on the Hall of Fame selection committee, presented Sprinkle's case to a special 25-member blue-ribbon committee last week in Canton.

"His ability to dominate a football game as a pass rusher was really unique in his era," Pompei told ChicagoBears.com. "He was an undersized guy; 200 pounds soaking wet. He created mayhem in virtually every game he played in, and it wasn't just as a pass rusher. He was a playmaker. He was a tone-setter. I think if you talk to anyone from that era who played against him, they will say he was one of the most difficult players they ever really encountered to try to block."

It's no coincidence that the Bears were dubbed the "Monsters of the Midway" during Sprinkle's best seasons with the team.

"He was a take-no-prisoners guy," Pompei said. "He was really the first great Bears defensive player in a string. I think he was as responsible as anybody for changing the identity of the Bears from a team that was dominated by offense and offensive stars for their first several decades to a team that is known for defense and great defensive players."

After Sprinkle's playing career ended, he remained a diehard Bears fan. He was glued to the television whenever they played and even made a yearly visit to training camp at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.

"He watched Bears games all the time," Withers said. "My husband and I would always take him to the alumni dinners. He liked to be able to socialize there and talk to people and reminisce about his football days. We would take him down to Bourbonnais so he could watch them and talk to the players. He liked doing all those kinds of things. He was very connected."

Jimbo Covert and Ed Sprinkle join the 28 other members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame from the Chicago Bears, the most of any team in the NFL.

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