Former Bears draftees recall last Chicago draft

By Sam Fiske, video by Joe Musso

When the Bears drafted Northwestern’s George Burman and Chuck Logan in December 1963, the former roommates and teammates didn’t even know about it right away.

The Bears didn’t tell them.

“I was actually walking on campus and a friend came up to me and congratulated me on getting drafted by the Bears,” said George Burman, a 15th round pick by the Chicago Bears that year. “I thought, ‘Is this April Fool’s Day?’”

“I don’t think anybody called me to tell me I was drafted,” said Logan, the Bears’ seventh-round pick. “I think I read it in the paper the next day.”

With the NFL Draft set to return to Chicago this week for the first time in more than 50 years, Burman (via Skype) and Logan (in person) told a group of graduate students at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism that a lot has changed in the process over the last 50 years.

“Unlike today, there were no agents, we dealt directly with the owners,” said Logan, 72, a wide receiver back then who converted to tight end. “After they signed us to contracts they told us not to tell anybody else.”

The more secretive the negotiations back then, the better it could be for the clubs. Knowledge was leverage for other players, either to work deals with that club or to use in talks with the rival league, the upstart AFL. Logan also was drafted in Round 15 by the AFL’s Denver Broncos, who offered him $20,000, about $1,000 more than the Bears, he said.

“Since I grew up a mile and a half west of Wrigley Field [where the Bears played from 1921 to 1970], I really wanted to be a Bear,” said Logan.

[vimeo 126390459 w=500 h=281]

Chuck Logan 1964 Draft from Medill Reports on Vimeo.

Burman, also 72, wasn’t drafted by the AFL. He had planned on attending Stanford to get his master’s in Business Administration to ensure a better long-term payout.

“I was really struggling with whether to actually do it or not,“ said Burman, who moved from the offensive line to wide receiver and tight end his last two years at Northwestern, but would move back to the line in the pros. “The fact that the Bears were less than generous back then contributed to that feeling. I don’t know how I would feel about being drafted by another team.”

The Bears offered him about $12,000, including a $1,000 signing bonus, and he ended up signing. He played in the NFL for the Bears, the Los Angeles Rams and Washington. His final season, he was the long snapper for Washington’s Super Bowl team, which lost to Miami. Burman was famously outspoken.

Burman testified in court during the 1970s against the draft, saying equal sharing of broadcast money brought competitive balance in the league and hiring the right coach could better determine success. The draft did not go away.

In 1973, he told Newsday that about one-third of his Washington teammates had used amphetamines before games, and estimated that the percentage was the same throughout the league. Washington coach George Allen said that wasn’t true, the NFL investigated, but nothing apparently came of it.

Burman said nobody ever asked him if he used amphetamines.

Did he?

“Yes,” he told the Medill students.

Logan never played for the Bears. He was traded before the 1964 season to the Pittsburgh Steelers and caught one pass for seven yards. He played the next three years with the St. Louis Cardinals.

“I was playing behind a guy named Jackie Smith, who’s in the Hall of Fame,” said Logan about his playing time with the Cardinals. “He got hurt once. That was the only game I played start to finish because we didn’t have a replacement.”

After retiring from football, Logan worked in sporting goods for 10 years before becoming a commercial real-estate broker, which he has done the past 35 years. He is semi-retired and lives in Evanston.

After the NFL, Burman went on to have a successful career in academia, ultimately serving as a dean of Syracuse’s Whitman School of Management. He stepped down as dean in 2003, took a year sabbatical and returned to Syracuse in a faculty role until retiring in 2013.

Logan and Burman, who roomed together as college freshmen, were not the only Northwestern players drafted in December 1963 (the 1964 draft). Tom O’Grady, who played quarterback and end for the Wildcats, went in the 14th round to Green Bay, but the Packers cut him before the season and he never played in the NFL.

Burman and Logan were happy they made it, even if the game wore on their bodies. Neither said he had any effects from head injuries, unlike a number of players these days. But both have dealt with knee issues, also a common issue for former players, which is why Logan was limping noticeably during his visit with the Medill students.

But neither expressed any regrets.

“I’ve got a couple of joints replaced and injuries like every other player,” Burman said. “Do I regret when I gimp around? Absolutely not, it was a wonderful experience.”