The Chicago Bears family saw three former Chicago Bears pass away in November. Here is a little bit about each of the three former players who moved on from this world, Joe Fortunato, J.C. Caroline and John Thierry.
(Photo Courtesey of abc.es)
Anyone who has been a Bears fan since the 1950’s will know who Joe Fortunato was. He was drafted by the Bears in the seventh round of the 1952 NFL Draft. Fortunato had played for the Virginia Military Institute and Mississippi State before coming into the NFL. He was unable to join the Bears until 1955, however, because he had to serve in the military.
Fortunato’s career with the Bears lasted 12 seasons, from 1955 to 1966. He played linebacker, was a five-time Pro Bowler, was named to the NFL’s All-Pro team three times and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1950’s.
He was part of that stellar 1963 championship team playing alongside Hall of Fame linebacker Bill George. After his career with the Bears, he signed on to be a linebacker’s coach and then a defensive coordinator, in 1967 and ’68 respectively but got out of coaching and started his own business.
Fortunato passed away on November 6th in Mississippi.
Former Chicago Bears’ defensive back J.C. Caroline came to Chicago in 1956 after first playing in the Canadian Football League with both the Toronto Argonauts and the Montreal Alouettes. He was a running back with the Alouettes and ended up coming to the Bears in the 1956 NFL Draft as both a running back and a defensive back. Caroline was drafted in the seventh round (pick 82) of the draft that year.
He primarily played defensive back for the Bears with a little running back mixed in. The University of Illinois product had a ten-season career in Chicago. Statistically, he scored six touchdowns and had 24 interceptions. Caroline may be best known for being the first NFL player ever to intercept Johnny Unitas (it was on Unitas’ first pass attempt in the NFL). Caroline took that interception back for a touchdown. He had a spot on the 1963 NFL Championship team as well.
Collegiately, Caroline has been considered one of the best running backs to come out of the University of Illinois at Champaign. He was seventh in Heisman Trophy voting in 1953 after churning out 1256 yards on the ground.
Caroline died on November 17th in Urbana, Illinois. He was 84.
Finally, former Chicago Bears linebacker John Thierry passed away in November. Thierry played his college ball at Alcorn State University as a linebacker. He was drafted in the first round (11th overall) in the 1994 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. Thierry was a bit bigger than the average linebacker, coming in at 6’4” and weighing 263 pounds, so he was somewhat of a tweener. He could play linebacker or defensive end. Chicago moved Thierry to defensive end as a pass rushing specialist.
He played in Chicago for the Bears from 1994 to 1998.
Thierry had franchise record-tying three fumble recoveries in a game for the Bears, against Houston back in 1995.
When the Cleveland Browns came back into the league in 1999, Thierry was added to the Brown’s expansion draft and went in the second round. He ended up in Green Bay after that. Eventually, Thierry found himself in Atlanta to close out his career and retired due to shoulder problems. For his career in the league, Thierry had 70 starts in 131 games tallying 148 tackles, 33.5 sacks, and seven fumble recoveries.
John Fitzgerald Thierry passed away on November 24th of a heart attack. He was 46.