This topic is especially important this week, since the smart money is on the Bears to take a defensive tackle in the first round in May’s draft. After a good start to free agency, a top prospect on the interior of the defensive line could really help sure up the line which struggled greatly last season.
Through the Bears’ storied history, they’ve featured some of the all-time greats on defense. When it comes to the tackle position, the best is a combination end/tackle in Dan Hampton.
“Danimal” as he’s known to Bears fans, was the fourth overall selection in the 1979 draft out of Arkansas. He earned that pick by totaling 18 sacks and 98 tackles as a senior for the Razorbacks, earning Southwest Conference Defensive Player of the Year and All-American honors.
As a pro, Hampton played in three decades for the Bears from 1979-1990. He was a force on the defensive line, helping anchor one of the best lines in league history. He played in 157 career games, starting 152 of them.
Danimal played left defensive end for the first three years of his career before alternating between end and tackle. His 82 career sacks ranked him third in franchise history when he retired behind Richard Dent and Steve McMichael.
According to Pro Football Reference, Hampton had 57 official sacks and 10 fumble recoveries. When including unofficial sacks from his first three years, he earned 82. Unofficially, he had 11.5 sack in his second year as a pro while playing end. Officially, he had three of his best four years in sacks at tackle, with nine in ’82, 11.5 in ’84 and 9.5 in ’88.
1984 may have been Hampton’s best season in the league, totaling 11.5 sacks, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl and being named First Team All-Pro. In total, Hampton made it to four Pro Bowls and was named to the All-1980’s team by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Hampton became the 26th player in franchise history to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002. He accomplished this despite battling injuries his entire career and having three seasons cut short while playing in less than 10 games.