Ken Kavanaugh

Ken Kavanaugh was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and attended Little Rock Central High School where he played in several sports.  Kavanaugh played baseball and football at Louisiana State University (LSU). He received the Touchdown Club’s first Knute Rockne Memorial Trophy in 1939; this award recognizes exceptional performance by a lineman.

Kavanaugh was the Bears 2nd round draft choice in 1940. Football historian Bob Carroll of the Professional Football Researchers Association (PFRA) called him a quality receiver whose value could not be measured in the number of catches he made, but by what he did after he caught them.[1] The 6-foot-3 205-pound end had 162 receptions for 3,626 yards and 50 touchdowns. Kavanaugh’s 50 receiving TDs is still a Bears record. His 13 receiving touchdowns in a single season is tied with Dick Gordon’s top spot with the Bears.

Kavanaugh played with the Bears in 1940 and 1941. He then went off to War for 3 ½ years with the U.S. Army Air Forces in the turbulent times of World War II. He eventually became a Captain. Kavanaugh was a consummate all-American soldier and citizen. Like many of the “greatest generation,” he had a war-time romance that led to marriage. Kavanaugh’s son, Ken Kavanaugh, Jr., wrote an excellent memoir on his dad’s life called The Humility of Greatness.[2]

Naturally, Kavanaugh returned to the Bears in 1946 upon his discharge. He remained through 1950. The War required many sacrifices, but he still had a great career. He played on the Bears’ 1940, 1941, and 1946 Championship teams.  He was first-team All-Pro two times.  He made the NFL 1940s All-Decade Team.  He was a Bears’ assistant coach in 1951. In 1954, he joined the New York Giants organization as an assistant coach. He stayed with the Giants organization as a coach and then as a scout until his retirement in 1999. Kavanaugh died on January 25, 2007.

Kavanaugh was named one of the 100 Greatest Bears of All Time.


[1] Bob Carroll, “Ken Kavanaugh: The Bears Home Run Hitter,” The Coffin Corner: Vol. 8, No. 2 (1986) viewed at on August 16, 2019.

[2] Ken Kavanaugh, Jr., The Humility of Greatness (Bloomington, IN: Xlibris, 2002).

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