An eighth-round draft pick out of Tennessee State, rookie defensive end Richard Dent immediately exceeded the Chicago Bears’ expectations. Dent played in every game as a rookie in 1983 and even started in three. The following year, he became a permanent starter at right end. That year he recorded a team record 17.5 sacks which was also the most of any defender in the NFC. Making his accomplishment even more significant is the fact that he was a starter in only the final 10 games of the season. Appropriately, he was named to the first of his four Pro Bowls and earned All-Pro and All-NFC honors as well.
For Dent, the 1984 season was the beginning of a remarkable 10-year period during which he recorded 10 or more sacks in eight of the next ten seasons including five consecutive (1984-88). His only double digit misses during that period came in 1989 when he logged 9 sacks, and in 1992 when he added 8.5 more.
Dent’s NFC leading 17.5 sacks in 1984 was immediately followed up with an NFL best 17 sacks in 1985. That year the Bears trounced the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX. Dent’s Super Bowl performance – three tackles, 1.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles – earned him Most Valuable Player honors. In the two playoff games against the New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams, building up to the Super Bowl, he was credited with a combined total of nine tackles and 4.5 sacks. In the 1986 season, Dent registered 11.5 sacks, 7.5 of which came during the final seven games.
Twice – once in 1984 and then again in 1987 – the Bears’ pass rushing specialist, dropped Los Angeles Raiders quarterbacks for a career high 4.5 sacks in a single game.
Chicago’s defenses of the mid-to-late 1980s ranks as one of the best of all time. Dent, a pass-rushing force, was a dominant player on a dominant defense. “He’ll make the guy in front of him know he’s in for a day’s work,” former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Ray Rhodes said of Dent when he signed him late in his career.
At the time of his retirement, Dent’s 137.5 career sack total was third behind Reggie White and Bruce Smith. Additional career statistics – including seasons with the San Francisco 49ers (1994), Indianapolis Colts (1996), and Eagles (1997) – include 8 interceptions, a safety, and fumble recovery for a touchdown. Four times he was named first- or second-team All-Pro, five times All-NFC, and selected to play in four Pro Bowls (1985, 1986, 1991, and 1994).
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