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Wally Chambers, 1973 Defensive Rookie of the Year with Bears, dies at 68

Wally Chambers, who made three Pro Bowl appearances with the Bears and was named the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1973, died Sunday.

The Bears drafted Wally Chambers in the first round in 1973.
Sun-Times file photo

Defensive tackle Wally Chambers, who made three Pro Bowl appearances with the Bears and was named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1973, died Sunday at 68.

The Bears drafted Chambers out of Eastern Kentucky with the eighth overall pick. He made the Pro Bowl in 1973, 1975 and 1976 and started all but one game during the first four years of his NFL career. He made first-team All-Pro once and second-team All-Pro twice and won the 1976 NFLPA Bulldog Award as the top defensive lineman in the league.

Chambers was limited to four games and one start in 1977 because of a knee injury suffered during the Pro Bowl that January. He and general manager Jim Finks were at odds over his contract, with Chambers accusing Finks of blackballing him.

The Bears finally traded him to the Buccaneers in 1978 at the urging of the NFL’s Player-Club Relations Committee after Chambers had filed a grievance. In return, the Bears received a 1979 first-round pick and tight end Bob Moore. They couldn’t have known how sweet the return would be. With the selection, the Bears took future Hall of Fame defensive lineman Dan Hampton with the fourth overall pick of the ’79 draft.

Chambers played two mostly unproductive years with Tampa Bay before retiring. He coached at the college and NFL levels and even in the World League of American Football in Europe.

Chambers ranked 45th in the Sun-Times’ list of the 100 greatest Bears that was published this month.