Eagles legend Chuck Bednarik spoke of his memories of Steve Van Buren Friday, the morning after Van Buren passed away in Lancaster at age 91. Bednarik was a rookie on the 1949 NFL championship team led by Van Buren.
"When I was a rookie, I was quoted somewhere as saying that Steve Van Buren was my hero and Steve never let me forget it," Bednarik recalled. "For years he would joke and say to me 'Chuck, am I still your hero?' I'm 87 years old and my answer today is same as it always been,'Yes Steve, you are my hero.' Steve Van Buren was the best football player I ever saw.
"Over the last few years whenever we got together, he would point at me and say, 'You're the best.' I'd tell him,'No, you're the best.' This would go back and forth and we'd settle it by agreeing that he was the best runner and I was the best tackler. At any stage in life it's sad to lose your hero, and Steve Van Buren was mine. You get a lot of personalities in a locker room, but there was nobody who didn't look up to and admire Steve."
Funeral arrangements were pending. Thompson Funeral Home in Lebanon, Pa., has a place on its website, thompsonfuneralhomelebanon.com, for fans to share their thoughts.
Van Buren won four league rushing titles from 1945 to '49. To a franchise that has experienced so few championship celebrations - three, the most recent in 1960 - Van Buren was a cherished link through the years to the days when head coach Greasy Neale's Eagles were the undisputed class of the league.
Van Buren almost missed the 1948 championship game, held at Shibe Park in a snowstorm. He lived in Penfield, and when he got up that morning, he saw the snow and figured the game would be postponed. When players and coaches gathered and Van Buren wasn't among them, Neale called Van Buren's house. Taking public transportation, he arrived in time to play and ended up scoring the only touchdown of a 7-0 game.
In the 1949 championship game in Los Angeles amid torrential rain, Van Buren gained 196 yards on 31 carries as they triumphed, 14-0.