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David R. Duerson

Former NFL player-turned-business owner David Duerson was born in Muncie, Indiana, on November 28, 1960. After graduating from Northside High School in Muncie, Duerson began his promising football career at the University of Notre Dame. Duerson spent the summers from 1979 to 1981 working as a law clerk in Miami, Florida, and during the summer of 1982, he served as legislative aide to U.S. Senator Richard Lugar. Duerson graduated from Notre Dame with a B.S. degree in economics in 1983.

Following graduation, Duerson joined the Chicago Bears, where he played from 1983 to 1989, earning his first Super Bowl ring in Super Bowl XX. In 1990, he joined the New York Giants, and that year the Giants won Super Bowl XXV. He then went on to play for the Phoenix Cardinals from 1991 to 1993. After leaving the NFL, Duerson decided to go into business through franchise ownership. He attended McDonald's Corporation's Hamburger University and in 1994 bought three McDonald's restaurants in the suburbs of Louisville, Kentucky. Selling his franchises in 1995, Duerson became president and CEO of Fair Oaks Farms, one of the primary suppliers of sausage to McDonald's and a number of other companies with an international distribution arm to Japan, Singapore, Turkey and Kuwait. Under his leadership, sales grew from $38 million in 1998 to $63.4 million in 2001. That same year, he earned an executive M.B.A. from Harvard University's Owners and Presidents Management Program.

In 2002, Duerson started Duerson Foods, providing pork and turkey sausage products to corporations such as Burger King, White Castle and SYSCO.

Duerson has earned a number of honors over the years, including being named two-time All-American at Notre Dame and the 1987 NFL Man of the Year. He serves on the University of Notre Dame Board of Trustees and as chairman of the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame, Chicago Chapter. He is also active with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, serving as a national trustee. Duerson and his wife, Alicia, have four children.

Duerson passed away on February 17, 2011.

Duerson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 28, 2003.

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Interview Date


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Longfellow Elementary School

Oliver W. Storer Junior High School

Northside High School

University of Notre Dame

Harvard University

Northside Middle School

Storer Elementary School

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First Name


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Favorite Season




Favorite Vacation Destination

South Florida, Hawaii

Favorite Quote

Never Be Satisfied.

Bio Photo
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Interview Description
Birth Date


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Speakers Bureau Region City




Favorite Food

Catfish, Raw Oysters

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Short Description

Football player and corporate chief executive David R. Duerson (1960 - 2011 ) is a former NFL player who is now CEO and owner of Duerson foods, sausage maker to Burger King and others.


Chicago Bears

New York Giants

Phoenix Cardinals

McDonald's Corporation

Fair Oaks Farms, LLC

Duerson Foods, LLC

Favorite Color

Black, Red

Timing Pairs

<a href="">Tape: 1 Slating of David Duerson interview</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 David Duerson's favorites</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 David Duerson describes his mother's background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 David Duerson discusses his father's family background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 David Duerson relates his family's history after the U.S. Civil War</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 David Duerson describes his father's career successes</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 David Duerson remembers his hometown of Muncie, Indiana</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 David Duerson discusses his mother's life</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 David Duerson recalls the Duerson family's interstate travels</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 David Duerson discusses recreation in Muncie, Indiana</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 David Duerson describes his childhood shenanigans</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 David Duerson recalls his early sports achievements</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 David Duerson details his early educational experience</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 David Duerson remembers influential teachers</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 David Duerson remembers his high school years</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 David Duerson describes his national and international travel during high school</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 David Duerson details his high school athletic accomplishments</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 David Duerson remembers his college years at the University of Notre Dame</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 David Duerson discusses his continued involvement with the University of Notre Dame</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 David Duerson recalls Notre Dame teammates and their athletic exploits</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 David Duerson explains why he chose football over baseball</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 David Duerson discusses some unexpected setbacks in his professional football career</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 David Duerson remembers 'Papa Bear' George Halas and Bears teammates</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 David Duerson recalls his clashes with Bears defensive coordinator, Buddy Ryan</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 David Duerson details how he learned to handle Buddy Ryan's racism</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 David Duerson reveals the inner workings of the Chicago Bears coaching staff</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 David Duerson describes his teammate, Bears quarterback Jim McMahon</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 David Duerson describes Buddy Ryan's coaching skills</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 David Duerson remembers the end of his career with the Chicago Bears</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 David Duerson discusses his career after the Chicago Bears</a>







David Duerson remembers 'Papa Bear' George Halas and Bears teammates
David Duerson describes Buddy Ryan's coaching skills
Let's talk about the [Chicago] Bears [National Football League team] and when you got to the Bears. This is, what, what did you know about [coach] Mike Ditka and the Chicago Bears. I think George Halas [owner of Chicago Bears] was still alive, wasn't he? 'Papa Bear' was still alive.$$(Simultaneously) George, 'Papa Bear', in fact, he was alive. He passed away that year, my rookie season. Chicago [Illinois] was a short sprint from South Bend. So the four years I was at [University of] Notre Dame [South Bend, Indiana], we'd come over on some Sundays and, and watch the Bears plays. And it was very easy to get tickets to Bear games back in those days because they were, were sorry. They were quite sorry. What I knew of Mike Ditka is that, is that he was a tough guy and that he had just drafted this, this small, middle linebacker, Mike Singletary, that nobody expected a whole lot from and that, you know, but it was a, it was a city that, on defensive side, always talked about its linebackers, but as far as I was concerned, it was a city of, of Gary Fencik and Doug Plank [Chicago Bears players]. And so--.$$Those are two hard-hittin' safeties.$$(Simultaneous) Two very, very hard-hitting' safeties, and, you know, with an incredible reputation. Growing up in Indiana, we got both the, the Bear games and the Cincinnati [Ohio] Bengals. Those were the two teams we saw. So my wife and I, as we were driving across the [Chicago] Skyway coming into Chicago, you know, I'm reporting to the city, and we're looking at the skyline, and I said, "Baby, you see that? Some day we're gonna own this like, like Gary Fencik and Doug Plank." And so I show up at training--at mini-camp. And my very first day, you know, Ditka embraced me and, you know, I was one of his draft picks. Well, I came to find out very quickly that I was [Bears coach] Mike Ditka and Jim Finks's pick. But I was not [Chicago Bears Defensive Coordinator] Buddy Ryan's pick.$[Chicago Bears Defensive Coordinator Buddy] Ryan is, was quite a character as you've already said--,$$Um-hum.$$--but do you, would you consider him a defensive genius at some point?$$Yeah, I would. I, I absolutely considered Buddy a defensive genius. That's without question. He designed and created the '46 Defense', which it was the 46 in that, that was the number that Doug Plank wore, because the defense was designed for the strong safety and, which, of course, was the position I played in the 46. So done right, the strong safety is gonna be the centerpiece of that defense. And certainly, you know, it was genius for Buddy to design the defense, but in order for it to be effective, because he had designed it when he was actually coaching under Weeb Eubanks, with the New York Jets. But the defense was not effective because you had to have two things. You had to have bright players who could understand the X's and O's and be able to, to make multiple shifts before the snap of a ball, and they had to be talented athletically. And it just so happened that that combination came together in '83 [1983], '84 [1984], '85 [1985] with the Chicago Bears. As I said before, I played with ten other, or nine other All-Pros. So it was easy for Dave Duerson to go to the Pro Bowl [National Football League all-star game]. I just simply had to do my job, and if everybody else did their job, there were enough accolades to go around. But then, of course, when Buddy left, Vince Tobin took over as defensive coordinator. And I had even greater success in my career under Vince Tobin. So, so we can't give Buddy too much credit because again, the talent was there with our ball club. But when Buddy left, and after the end of the, of the '85 [1985] season and went to Philly [Philadelphia Eagles football team], we played the, the Eagles the next year in '86 [1986]. And from a defensive perspective, I beat Buddy Ryan by myself. I did things that day that, to this day I cannot explain. I freaked. I did, I had interceptions, I forced fumbles. I had two sacks. And I'll never forget, the game went into overtime. And I grabbed our special teams coach, Steve Kazor, and I told him, I'm, I'm going down on, on the kickoff team. I wasn't even on the kickoff team. And so Steve saw this crazy look in my eyes, he said, "Okay, great, go in at the five position." And so, you know, so I went in and I took some guy out. I don't remember who it was. And on the kickoff, Kevin Butler kicks off, I went down; the return man grabs the ball. I explode into him. He went one way, and the ball went another. We recover. Immediately, Kevin Butler goes onto the field, kicks a field goal, game over. And Buddy Ryan's crying, and that was my vindication. So never had to say a word, beating, simply with work ethic. And at the end of the day, I never had to say a word, and he was the one who broke down--not Dave Duerson.