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People We’ll Miss—2014

Ed Sprinkle, 90

September 3, 1923–July 28, 2014

He was known as “The Claw” and “the meanest man in football”—and for good reason. A defensive end for the Chicago Bears for more than a decade, the former Texan was infamous for delivering some of the hardest, most devastating hits in the NFL during the forties and fifties.

Although Sprinkle hadn’t been a Texan for quite some time, he had deep roots in the Lone Star State. Born in Bradshaw and raised in Tuscola, Sprinkle distinguished himself athletically early on. At Hardin-Simmons University, in Abilene, he earned multiple letters in both football and basketball, as well as All-Border Conference honors, before transferring to the U.S. Naval Academy, in Maryland, where he continued his football career.

Soon after a successful tryout with the Chicago Bears in 1944, Sprinkle earned his nickname of “The Claw” for the vicious use of his forearms against opponents: spreading them wide in caricaturist fashion to deliver what is today considered an illegal clothesline tackle. In a November 1950 profile, Collier’s magazine dubbed Sprinkle “the meanest” (after all, he did break several noses and even separated the shoulder of a running back with his moves). After his colorful career with the Bears, during which he earned a spot on the NFL’s 1940’s all-decade team and appeared in four Pro Bowls, Sprinkle headed east in 1962 to serve a season as defensive coordinator for the New York Jets.

In late July, Sprinkle passed away in Palos Heights, Illinois, from natural causes. He was 90. –Lauren Caruba 

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