Born at the tail end of the 19th century, George Trafton starred in the early days of Notre Dame football, winning a national championship for Knute Rockne’s squad way back in 1919. A prosperous career in the newly formed NFL would follow.
Trafton joined the Decatur Staleys in 1920 during the NFL’s first season and would spend more than a decade with that franchise that would become the Chicago Bears. Trafton was the starting center for most of the next twelve years, retiring from the league in 1932.
It’s hard to quantify offensive linemen, especially an entire century ago, but Trafton was named to several All-Pro teams and was one of the best linemen in the earliest days of the NFL.
He also helped lead the Bears to NFL championships in 1921 and 1932, becoming a key part of George Halas’s offensive game plan. He’s considered one of the greatest Chicago Bears of all time, even though he’d briefly served as a line coach with the Packers after his retirement.
Trafton was later an assistant coach, a boxer, and a promoter, and earned his place in the Hall of Fame in 1964, elected in the second-ever class. He revolutionized the position of center in the earliest days of football and his impact is felt even fifty years after his passing in 1971.