After graduating from Crane High School in Chicago Halas George attended the University of Illinois, playing football for coach Bob Zuppke, as well as baseball and basketball, and earning a degree in civil engineering.
George Stanley Halas lettered in football, basketball, and baseball at the University of Illinois, where he received an engineering degree in 1918. While serving in the armed forces on the first of his two tours of duty (1918-1919, 1942-1946), he played for the Navy's Great Lakes football team; when Great Lakes beat the Mare Island Marines, 17-0, in the 1919 Rose Bowl to win the National Service Championship, he scored a touchdown, ran an interception back 77 yards, and was named player of the game. After leaving the Navy he tried his hand at baseball, briefly playing right field for the New York Yankees. In 1920 he settled in Decatur, Ill., learning the cornstarch business with the A. E. Staley Manufacturing Co. and playing and coaching for the Staleys, the company's semiprofessional football team. Two years later the Staleys moved to Chicago and, with Halas as part owner, were competing as the Bears in the newly organized National Football League.
Playing end for the Staleys and the Bears until 1929, Halas made the NFL All-Pro team for the 1920's. His 98-yard touchdown run after recovering a Jim Thorpe fumble in 1923 stood as an NFL record for 49 years. In his 40 years as coach (1920-1929, 1933-1942, 1946-1955, 1958-1967), Halas compiled a regular-season and playoff total of 324 wins, 151 losses, and 31 ties; his victory mark ranked highest among NFL coaches until surpassed by Don Shula in November 1993. Dominating the league in the 1930's and 1940's, Chicago's "Monsters of the Midway" won six championships during that period. None was more satisfying to Halas than their 73-0 destruction of the favored Washington Redskins in the 1940 title game. He coached his last championship team in 1963, capping the season with a 14-10 playoff win against the New York Giants.
As coach and owner, Halas was one of the sport's principal innovators. He helped develop the man-in-motion T-formation, which became the most widely used offense in pro football. He pioneered the use of game films and daily practices, paid scouts to report on upcoming opponents, planted spotters in the stands to suggest plays and strategy while the game was in progress, hired a band and published a team newspaper to attract fans, and encouraged radio broadcasts of Bears' games. Elected as a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1963, "Papa Bear" Halas retired from coaching in 1968. When the American Football League merged with the NFL in 1970, he became president of the National Football Conference. He remained active as team owner until his death on Oct. 31, 1983.