Jimbo Covert, Ed Sprinkle Make Hall of Fame

Gene Chamberlain

Finally, it can be said Walter Payton ran behind a hall of fame blocker.

Chicago Bears left tackle Jimbo Covert has been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of a special 20-member Class of 2020 to commemorate the NFL's 100th season.

Also named along with 13 inductees was the late Ed Sprinkle, a two-way player in the 1940s and 1950s for the Bears.

None of the linemen who blocked for Payton in a 13-year career had been voted in until Covert, who played from 1983-90. Until now, Covert was the only member of the NFL's 1980s All-Decade team on offense or defense who hadn't been voted for enshrinement in Canton.

Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker reached Covert, who was in Los Angeles, to tell him the news at about 4 a.m. Pacific time.

"I don't know what to say, I'm shocked," Covert said, via NFL Network. "It's just incredible. I've been on pins and needles for a week."

During last June's Bears 100th anniversary celebration coach Mike Ditka referred to Covert as the reason the Bears were one of the few teams who didn't have to double-team Lawrence Taylor when they faced the New York Giants. Taylor never had a sack against Covert in three games during the 1980s.

Covert is the fifth player from the 1985 Super Bowl champions to make the hall of fame. Also in are Payton, Dan Hampton, Mike Singletary and Richard Dent.

The Bears selected Covert with the sixth pick of the 1983 draft out of Pitt, where he had blocked for his good friend quarterback Dan Marino.

Covert became an instant starter and for the rest of his career the Bears ranked in the top three or better in rushing in all but one of his seasons. Four times they were among the top seven in fewest sacks allowed.

The line of the 1980s consisted of Covert, left guard Mark Bortz, center Jay Hilgenberg, right guard Tom Thayer and right tackle Keith Van Horne. Kurt Becker played left guard before Thayer joined the league in 1985 from the USFL.

From 1983-86 the Bears led the league in rushing, winning the Super Bowl in 1985. They won the NFC Central title from 1984 through 1988 and then again in 1980.

Covert blocked just five seasons for Payton, and after Payton retired at the end of the 1987 season the Bears still were among the top three in rushing through Covert's final season

Covert played at 6-foot-4, 277 pounds and was ranked No. 13 all time on the list of top 100 Bears in the Bears Bears Centennial Scrapbook by Don Pierson and Dan Pompei. Twice an All-Pro and a Pro Bowler, Covert in 2003 was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

A back injury in 1987 plagued Covert for the rest of his career and eventually contributed to his retirement. After retirement he went on to great success in the health care industry, serving as vice president of development for Caremark Physical Therapy, senior vice president of development for Horizon/CMS Healthcare and president and CEO of The Institute for Transfusion Medicine.

Sprinkle was nicknamed "the Claw" and was known as one of the toughest Bears ever, as well as one of their best pass rushers. He played on the 1946 NFL champion team and was in the NFL from 1944-1955. Sprinkle passed away in 2014 at the age of 90.

Besides being known for the use of his forearm, Sprinkle was simply known as the meanest man in football.  He played at only 200 pounds and was called by George Halas the greatest pass rusher he'd ever seen. The Giants once claimed Spinkle had injured two of their players on the same play in the 1946 title game.

Sprinkle was given the jersey No. 7 by Halas, which the number he had worn as a player.

The Bears now have 30 players in the hall, the most by any team. There are 34 individuals who have played, coached or held administration positions for the Bears who are enshrined in Canton.

Hall of Fame Bears

George Halas 1920-28 1920-83 (coach, owner)

Bronko Nagurski 1930-37, 1943

Red Grange 1925 1929-34

Ed Healey 1922-27

William R. Lyman 1926-28, 1930-31, 1933-34

George Trafton 1920-21, 1923-32

Paddy Driscoll 1926-29

Dan Fortmann 1936-43

Sid Luckman 1939-50

George McAfee 1940-41, 1945-50

Bulldog Turner 1940-52

Joe Stydahar 1936-42, 1945-46

Bill Hewitt 1932-36

Bill George 1952-65

George Connor 1948-55

Gale Sayers 1965-71

Dick Butkus 1965-73

George Blanda 1949-58

Doug Atkins 1955-66

George Musso 1933-44

Mike Ditka 1961-66, 1982-92 (Coach)

Stan Jones 1954-65

Walter Payton 1975-87

Jim Finks 1974-82 (GM)

Mike Singletary 1981-92

Dan Hampton 1979-90

Richard Dent 1983-93, 1995

Brian Urlacher 2000-12

Jimbo Covert 1983-90

Ed Sprinkle 1944-55

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