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Clyde Emrich Passed Away At Age 90


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Originally posted on FanNation Bear Digest
By Gene Chamberlain  |  Last updated 11/10/21

Clyde Emrich helped train Bears players as strength and conditioning coach from Doug Atkins to Dan Hampton.

The Bears on Wednesday announced the loss of the man who was their longest-tenured full-time employee at age 90.

"Clyde revolutionized the way teams trained for an NFL season," Bears vice president Brian McCaskey said. "He shared his knowledge and expertise with athletes from all walks of life and at all levels. Clyde would always say 'give me an athlete, and I'll make them an even better athlete by making them stronger.'

"One of the things that makes Clyde's story so unique is that he was self-taught. As accomplished as Clyde was, he was driven to be the best at his craft. A 'Legend' in every sense, he was a wonderful friend to many. He is irreplaceable and will be missed by everyone who knew him."

Emrich was the NFL's first full-time strength and conditioning coach, hired in 1971 when Jim Dooley was still the team's coach. However, he actually had contact with team founder George Halas first in 1963 and had helped train Pro Football Hall of Famers Stan Jones and Doug Atkins at a local YMCA. Both players were critical to the success of the 1963 NFL championship team.

Emrich was the strength and conditioning coach from 1971 to 1991 and remained on as a full-time employee, advising at times in his area of expertise while also serving as co-training camp coordinator with Brian McCaskey.

A former Olympic weightlifter, Emrich was the first man under 200 pounds to clean and jerk 400 pounds. He was a four-time national champion who began training at home as a 5-foot-6, 110-pound 15-year-old using homemade cans of sand and cement.

Emrich was a four-time national champion who won the Pan American Games gold medal in 1959 and competed in the Olympics in Helsinki in 1952. He was named to the USA, National Fitness and Illinois and Chicagoland Sports Weightlifting Hall of Fames.

Visitation for Emrich will be 3 to 8 p.m. Nov. 15 at Burnett-Dane Funeral Home in Libertyville and a funeral service will be at 11 a.m. Nov. 16 at St. Joseph Church in Libertyville. 

Edited by soulman
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CLYDE EMRICH 1931-2021
Longtime Bears strength coach dies

By Brad Biggs Chicago Tribune

Clyde Emrich had an impact on the careers of Bears players from the 1963 championship team to the 1985 Super Bowl XX winners to the modern day, and the organization is mourning the loss of the man called “The Legend.”

Emrich, the longest-tenured employee at Halas Hall, died Wednesday. He was 90.

One of the most decorated weightlifters in the world and a 1952 Olympian, Emrich was introduced to George Halas in 1963, when he was working outside of the facility with players such as Stan Jones and Doug Atkins. The relationship grew from there, and the Bears hired Emrich full time in 1971 as the NFL’s first strength coach. He remained in that role through the 1991 season.

Emrich remained in the Bears administration and was a training camp coordinator, but he always had a place in the weight room — which the team named in his honor in 2008 — and he quickly earned the respect of players.

“I lived in the weight room right along with the offensive line, so we were always in there,” said Roberto Garza, who started 145 games for the Bears, the fourth-most by an offensive lineman in team history. “The one person you could count on to be there was Clyde.”

Rusty (Jones) was running the show (as the head strength coach) back then, but if you set foot in those cleans platforms, Clyde was sprinting down the staircase to get a chance to work with you.

“With his resume and everything he accomplished, he was such a huge source of knowledge in the strength world. He wanted to do cleans and Olympic lifting, and every day was going to be a max-out day. Sometimes I’d be like, ‘Clyde, I just played a game. I don’t know if I can max out.’ He’d say, ‘OK, let’s do reps.’ It was a constant. He was always pushing us and he knew the value in strength training. It was fun to have him in there.”
Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera said what struck him about Emrich when Rivera joined the Bears as a second-round pick in 1984 was how Emrich individualized a program for every player on the roster.

“Clyde was an amazing person,” Rivera said. “He knew how to connect with everybody and get everyone on the same page and he knew how to inspire. That was probably the biggest thing. He knew how to motivate guys.

“You came in and he knew what you needed and he worked with you. Everything he did was tailored and wasn’t one of those things where he had it written on the board — that’s what you had to do. That’s what made him unique.

“When you were in college, everyone had a routine for the linebackers and the DBs and the D-line. Clyde looked at you and said, ‘You should do this.’ He did a lot of Olympic lifting with me because he thought I needed explosive, athletic movement.”

Players quickly learned to trust Emrich and his developmental plans, and that invested them in the work that started in the offseason and carried through the season.

“Anybody where the first sentence in their bio is ‘the first man in the world to …,’ whatever else you have done after that, you are the first person in the world to have done it,” Super Bowl XX guard Tom Thayer said before Emrich’s most recent birthday in April. “That’s the way Clyde’s bio starts.

He is a legend.

“He’s the first strength coach in the NFL, and he should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of that. He’s bigger than just the Bears when you look at strength programs today and the type of qualifications you need to lead the way.”

Six-time Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz, who remains a dedicated weightlifter and was before he arrived on the Bears, called it a privilege to work with Emrich.

Emrich was a member of the USA Weightlifting, Illinois State Weightlifting, USA Strength Coach and Chicagoland Sports halls of fame.
“I never saw Clyde have a bad day,” Garza said. “He always had a smile on his face, and it got bigger anytime guys got in the weight room. He was glad to be part of the Bears.”

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