Prominent Football Deaths in 2018
by Randy Snow
Original to www.theworldoffootball.com, Friday, January 4, 2019
Here is our annual list of football luminaries who passed away during the past year. These players, coaches and others made their mark in the football world and will not soon be forgotten.
January 4 – Carmen “Carm” Cozza, the legendary coach at Yale University, dies at the age of 87. Cozza played college football at Miami (Ohio) where he played quarterback, running back and defensive back. He became the school’s freshman football coach in 1956 and move up to the varsity staff in 1961. He became an assistant coach at Yale in 1963 and the head coach there in 1965. He remained the head coach at Yale for 32 years, from 1965-1996 and posted a record of 179-119-5. He led the Bulldogs to 10 Ivy League titles and was the winningest coach in Ivy League history at the time of his retirement. After he retired, he became a special assistant to the Athletic Director at Yale as well as doing color commentary during Bulldog football game through 2016. Cozza was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
January 12 – Keith Jackson, the legendary college football broadcaster, dies at the age of 89. After spending time in the Marine Corps, Jackson attended Washington State University and received a degree in broadcast journalism in 1954. He spent 10 years at ABC station KOMO in Seattle doing news and sports before he became the sports director of ABC Radio West. He then began broadcasting college football for ABC Sports in 1966. When ABC’s “Monday Night Football” was introduced 1970, Jackson was the play-by-play broadcaster and worked alongside Howard Cosell and Don Meredith. However, he was replaced by former New York Giants star, Frank Gifford after just one season on the show. He returned to broadcasting college football games in 1971 and became the voice of college football for a generation of fans over the next 30 years. The National Sports Media Association named Jackson Sportscaster of the Year five consecutive years, from 1972 to 1976. Jackson also worked USFL games from 1983-1985. Over the years he also worked baseball, NBA and college basketball games and even auto racing. He worked 10 Summer and Winter Olympics and appeared on “ABC’s Wide World of Sports.” He is credited with being the first to refer to the Rose Bowl as “The Granddaddy of Them All” and Michigan Stadium as “The Big House.” His signature phrase was “Whoa Nelly.” His last game was the 2006 Rose Bowl. He was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2009.
January 20 – Jerry Keeling, a two-way player in the Canadian Football League for 15 seasons, dies at the age of 78. Keeling played college football at the University of Tulsa and signed with the Calgary Stampeders in 1961. He played quarterback and defensive back for Calgary from 1961-1972, winning a Grey Cup title with the team in 1971. He also played for the Ottawa Rough Riders from 1973-1975 and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1975. He won a second Grey Cup championship in 1973 with Ottawa. As a quarterback, he completed a 109-yard touchdown pass in 1966 and on defense, he had a 102-yard fumble return in 1964. After he retired as a player, he returned to Calgary as an assistant coach in 1982 and 1983. Keeling was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1989 and was added to the Stampeders Wall of Fame in 1990.
February 4 – Jim Stillwagon, who played in the CFL, dies at the age of 68. Stillwagon played college football at Ohio State and was a defensive tackle. He helped lead the Buckeyes to an undefeated season in 1968 and a college football national championship. He was then selected in the fifth round of the 1971 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers, but he never played for the Packers. Instead he signed with the Toronto Argonauts in the Canadian Football League played for the Argos for five seasons from 1971-1975. He was a three-time CFL All-Star and was named an All-Time Argo in 2009.
February 4 – Edwin Jackson, a linebacker in the NFL, dies in a car crash at the age of 26. Jackson and another person were standing next to a car on the side of the road about 4 AM when they were hit and killed by a suspected drunk driver. Jackson played college football at Georgia Southern and was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the Arizona Cardinals. He then signed with the Indianapolis Colts in 2016 and played in all 16 games for the Colts. Jackson was placed on Injured reserve for the entire 2017 season.
February 8 – Ben Agajanian, a place kicker who played in three different pro football leagues, dies at the age of 98. Agajanian played college football at New Mexico. In 1941, he lost four toes on his right foot in an industrial accident. His pro football career began in 1945 at the age of 42 when he played for both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers. He then played for the Los Angeles Dons of the All American Football Conference in 1947 and 1948. In 1949 he played one season for the New York Giants and in 1953 he played for the Los Angeles Rams. He returned to the play for the Giants from 1954-1957. In 1960, he played for the Los Angeles Chargers of the American Football League, his third pro league. He was playing for the AFL Dallas Texans in 1961 when Vince Lombardi make a secret trade for Agajanian for come to the Green Bay Packers. At the time, the AFL and NFL were rivals and were not allowed to make trades with each other. He finished his playing career with the AFL Oakland Raiders in 1962 and the AFL San Diego Chargers in 1964. His nicknames included “Bootin’ Ben” and “The Toeless Wonder.” He is credited with being the first kicking specialist in pro football. He won two NFL titles during his career; one with the Giants in 1956 and another with the Packers in 1961.
February 9 – Jim Garrett, the father of Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, dies at the age of 87. Jim started out as an assistant NFL coach with the New York Giants in 1970 and was the head coach of the Houston Texans of the World Football League in 1974. He also spent time as an assistant coach New Orleans Saints and the Cleveland Browns. Garrett served as a college football head coach at the Coast Guard Academy, Lehigh, Susquehanna and Columbia. From 1987 to 2004, Jim Garrett was a player scout for the Cowboys.
February 15 – Leo Cahill, a former head coach and general manager in the Canadian Football League, dies at the age of 89. Cahill played college football at the University of Illinoisand played in the 1947 Rose Bowl. He started out as an assistant college football coach at Illinois and then had stops at Toledo and South Carolina. He became an assistant coach in the CFL with the Montreal Alouettes in 1960. From 1967-1972 and from 1977-1978 he was the head coach of the Toronto Argonauts. In 1974 and 1975 he was the general manager of the Memphis Southmen of the World Football League. Cahill also spent time as the general manager of the Argonauts from 1986-1988. He also served as a color commentator for CFL telecasts on CBC between 1981 and 1985. Cahill was inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.
February 19 – Fred Carr, who played linebacker in the NFL for 10 seasons, dies at the age of 71. Carr started out at the junior college level and helped lead Phoenix College to a national championship as a freshman in 1964. He then played football at Texas Western, which today as known as UTEP. He was selected in the first round (fifth overall) of the 1968 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers and played in Green Bay from 1968-1977.
March 1 – Dorne Dibble, who played six seasons in the NFL, dies at the age of 88. Dibble played college football at Michigan State and was drafted in the third round of the 1951 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. He played offensive end and defensive back for Detroit in 1951 and 1953-1957. He did not play in 1952 because he was serving in the U.S. Air Force. He won two NFL titles while playing for the Lions in 1953 and 1957. Dibble was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2014.
March 9 – Chris Gedney, who played tight end in college and in the NFL, dies at the age of 47. The cause of death was not immediately known. Gedney played college football at Syracuse and was selected in the third round of the 1993 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. He played for the Bears from 1993-1995 and then for the Arizona Cardinals in 1997, 1998 and 2000. After his playing career was over, he went into broadcasting. He spent time as a color analyst for Cardinals NFL games and then returned to Syracuse as the Senior Associate Athletic Director and was also part of the football broadcasts. Gedney was named to the school’s All-Century Football Team in 2002.
March 14 - Billy Martin, who played tight end in college and in the NFL, dies at the age of 75. Martin was known as The Jolly Giant because he stood six-feet, four-inches tall. He played college football at Georgia Tech and was selected in the second round of the 1964 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. He was also selected in the second round of the rival American Football League Draft that same year by the Kansas City Chiefs. Martin signed with the Bears and played in Chicago in 1964 and 1965. He was then selected by the Atlanta Falcons in an Expansion Draft in 1966 and played for the Falcons in 1966 and 1967. He ended his playing career with the Minnesota Vikings in 1968.
March 15 – Tom Benson, the owner of the NFL New Orleans Saints and the NBA New Orleans Pelicans, dies at the age of 90. Benson was a self-made billionaire through the banking industry and owning car dealerships. He bought the Saints in 1985 and the Pelicans in 2012. At the time, the Saints had never had a winning season since it began playing in 1967. He also owned the New Orleans VooDoo of the Arena Football League from 2004-2008. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated the city and the Saints stadium. The Superdome was turned into a temporary shelter for those who were displaced in the wake of the hurricane. The Saints were forced to play their home games at the Alamodome in San Antonio during the 2005 season. In 2014, Benson made a $10 million donation to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio to help pay for renovations to Fawcett Stadium. He also donated another $1 million towards a planned retirement home for ex-players to be built near the Hall of Fame. Fawcett Stadium was renamed Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in his honor and a bronze statue of Benson was unveiled at the stadium last August. The Saints won their first Super Bowl under Benson’s ownership in February 2010 over the Indianapolis Colts.
March 27 – David Humm, a backup quarterback in the NFL for 10 seasons, dies at the age of 65. Humm played college football at Nebraska and led the team to three Top Ten ranked seasons. He was selected in the fifth round of the 1975 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. He played in Oakland from 1975-1979. He also played for the Buffalo Bills in 1980 and the Baltimore Colts in 1981 and 1982. He finished his playing career with the Los Angeles Raiders in 1983 and 1984. Humm won two Super Bowl rings during his playing career with the Raiders, one with Oakland in 1977 and another in Los Angeles in 1984.
March 27 – James “Quick” Parker, who played 12 seasons in the Canadian Football League as a defensive lineman, dies of a heart attack at the age of 60. Parker played college football at Wake Forest. He played for the Edmonton Eskimos form 1980-1983. He then played for the British Columbia Lions from 1984-1989 and in 1984, he recorded a league record 26.5 sacks in a season, a record which still stands today. He finished his playing career with the Toronto Argonauts in 1990 and 1991. His trademark was wearing a seagull feather on is helmet during games. He won four Grey Cup titles during his career, three straight with Eskimos (1980-1982) and another with the Lions (1985). He tried his hand at coaching the defensive line for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1992 and 1993 before opening a restaurant in Vancouver right across the street from the Lions stadium. Parker was inducted into the Wake Forest Hall of Fame in 1997. In 2001, he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame along with his Edmonton teammate, quarterback Warren Moon.
April 3 – Bill Rademacher, who played both receiver and defensive back in the NFL, dies at the age of 75. Rademacher played college football at Northern Michigan University and was signed as an undrafted free agent by the New York Jets in 1964. He played for the Jets from 1964-1968 and the Boston Patriots from 1969-1970. Rademacher was a member of the Super Bowl III team that beat the Baltimore Colts. After his NFL career, he returned to his alma mater and served as the Wildcats head coach from 1978-1982. He was also an assistant coach at Michigan State from 1983-1991. Rademacher was inducted into the Northern Michigan University Sports Hall of Fame in 1981 and the Upper Peninsula Hall of Fame in 1983.
April 8 – Joe McConnell, a longtime radio play-by play announcer, dies at the age of 79. Between 1971 and 1998, McConnell spent 23 seasons in the NFL calling games for the Denver Broncos, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Oilers. He broadcast Northwestern football games in 1988 and was the voice of Purdue football for 16 seasons from 1994-2009. He also called college basketball games, NBA games and Major League Baseball games, as well as three Super Bowls. He is a member of the Indiana Broadcasters Pioneers Hall of Fame and was named the Associated Press and United Press International Play-by-Play Sportscaster of the Year five times. He was named the Illinois Sportscaster of the Year in 1981 and was the Indiana Sportscaster of the Year in 2000.
April 20 - Earl Bruce, a college football head coach for 19 seasons, dies at the age of 87. Bruce was on the Ohio State freshman football team in 1950 but suffered a career ending knee injury. He then became a student coach at the school after that. He was the head coach at Iowa State from 1973-1978 and the head coach at Ohio State from 1979-1987. In his nine seasons at OSU, he led the Buckeyes to a record of 81-26-1, four Big Ten titles and a national championship in 1979. Bruce then went on to be the head coach at Colorado State from 1989-1992. He also spent time coaching at the University of Tampa and Northern Iowa. He also coached professionally in the Arena Football League and was the head coach of the Cleveland Thunderbirds (1994), St. Louis Stampede (1995-1996), Iowa Barnstormers (2003) and Columbus Destroyers (2004). Bruce was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Ohio State Hall of Fame in 2004.
May 12 – Billy Brewer, a college football coach, dies at the age of 82. Brewer played quarterback in college at Ole Miss and was an assistant coach at Division I-AA Southeastern Louisiana from 1974 to 1979. His first head coaching job was at Louisiana Tech from 1980-1981 where he guided the team to the 1982 Southland Conference title and the Division I-AA Playoffs. He went on to be the head coach at Ole Miss for 11 seasons from 1983 to 1993. He led the team to five bowl appearances, winning three bowl games. He was named the 1986 SEC Coach of the Year.
May 13 – Chuck Knox, who was a head coach in the NFL for 22 years, dies at the age of 86. Knox was an assistant coach in the NFL with the New York Jets and the Detroit Lions before becoming the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams from 1973-1977. He was on the Jets coaching staff that won Super Bowl III. Knox was also the head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 1978-1982, the Seattle Seahawks from 1983-1991 and the Rams again from 1992-1994. His teams relied heavily on the running game, which is why his offense was known as “Ground Chuck.” Knox was inducted into the Seahawks' Ring of Honor in 2005.
May 16 – Andy Johnson, who played in the NFL and the USFL, dies at the age of 65. Johnson played college football at the University of Georgia where he played quarterback. He was selected in the fifth round of the 1974 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots and made the switch to running back. He played for the Patriots from 1974-1982. In 1983, he signed with the Boston Breakers of the United States Football League. He was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.
May 20 – Billy Cannon, who played halfback and tight end in college and in the AFL and NFL, dies at the age of 80. Cannon played college football at LSU. In 1958, his junior season, he helped lead the Tigers to an undefeated season and a national championship. He also won the 1959 Heisman Trophy. Cannon was selected with the first overall pick in the 1960 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. He signed with the Rams but also secretly signed a contract to play for the Houston Oilers of the new American Football League. Both leagues wanted the star college player and his playing future was eventually decided in court when a judge awarded Cannon to the Oilers. He played for Houston from 1960-1963 and won the first two AFL titles with the team in 1960 and 1961. He was then traded to the Oakland Raiders and played there from 1964-1969, winning a third AFL championship in 1967. He finished his playing career with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1970. After his playing career was over, he went to the dental school at the University of Tennessee and became a dentist. Cannon was inducted into the LSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1975, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 1976 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
May 25 – Bill Mallory, who was a college football coach, dies at the age of 82. Mallory played offensive and defensive end in college at the University of Miami (Ohio). He later became the head coach there from 1969-1973. He was also the head coach at Colorado from 1974-1978, Northern Illinois from 1980-1983 and at Indiana from 1984-1996. His overall coaching record during his 27-year coaching career was 168-129-4. Mallory was named Big Ten Coach of the Year in 1987.
June 4 – Dwight Clark, a former wide receiver in the NFL, dies the age of 61 after a year-long battle with ALS. Clark played college football at Clemson and was selected in the 10th round of the 1979 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers, the same draft that also brought quarterback Joe Montana to the team. Clark played his entire nine-year NFL career in San Francisco from 1979-1987. He is best remembered for “The Catch” in the 1981 NFC Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys. Clark won five Super bowl rings over the years, two as a player and three more as a 49ers team executive. He also spent time as a team executive with the Cleveland Browns.
June 9 – Kenyatta Jones, an offensive lineman who played in the NFL, dies of cardiac arrest at the age of 39. Jones played college football at the University of South Florida and was the first ever player from the school to be drafted by an NFL team. He was selected in the fourth round of the 2001 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. He played for the team in 2001 and 2002. New England won Super Bowl XXXVI in his rookie season. Unfortunately, he had double knee surgery prior to the 2003 season. Jones then played in three games for the Washington Redskins in 2004. He also played for the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League in 2008.
June 12 – Keith Fahnhorst, who played in the NFL for 14 seasons, dies at the age of 66. Fahnhorst played tight end in college at the University of Minnesota and was selected in the second round of the 1974 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He was switched to offensive tackle and played his entire career with the 49ers from 1974-1987. He won two Super Bowls and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1985.
June 18 – Leon White, who played center in college and in the NFL, dies of congestive heart failure at the age of 63. White played college football at the University of Colorado. He was selected in the third round of the 1978 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. He played only two seasons n the NFL and then became a professional wrestler, going by the name of Big Van Vader. He worked his way from Japan to the United States, wrestling in both World Championship Wrestling and the Word Wrestling Federation, where his name was eventually shortened to just Vader.
July 11 – Darryl Rogers, who was a head coach in college and in the NFL, dies at the age of 83. Rogers played college football at Fresno State where he played end. His first college head coaching job was also at Fresno State from 1969-1972. He went on to be the head coach at San Jose State from 1973-1975, Michigan State from 1976-1979 and Arizona State from 1980-1984. He was named Big Ten Coach of the Year in 1977. Rogers also coached in the NFL for the Detroit Lions from 1985-1988. He also spent the 1991 season as the head coach of the of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League. Rogers is on the 2019 ballot for election to the College Football Hall of Fame.
July 12 – Bruce Maher, a safety who played 10 seasons in the NFL, dies at the age of 80. Maher played college football at Detroit Mercy. He was selected in the 15th round of the 1959 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions and played for the team from 1960-1967. He then signed with the New York Giants and played two more seasons in 1968 and 1969.
July 16 - Gabe Rivera, who played defensive tackle in college and in the NFL, dies at the age of 57. Rivers played college football at Texas Tech from 1979-82. He averaged 80 tackles per season and earned the nickname “Señor Sack,” He was the 21st overall selection in the 1983 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. During his rookie season, Rivera had two sacks in the six games that he played. In October, he was in a car accident that left him a paraplegic, paralyzed from the waist down. Rivers was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2012.
July 22 - Tony Sparano, a former head coach in college and in the NFL, dies at the age of 56. Sparano played college football at the University of New Haven. He was an assistant coach there beginning in 1984 and became the New Haven head coach 1994. He remained there through 1998 and led the team to the NCAA Division II national championship game in 1997. Over the years, Sparano spent time in the NFL as an assistant coach with the Cleveland Browns, Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys He was the Miami Dolphins head coach from 2008-2011. He was also the interim head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2014. Last season, Sparano was the offensive line coach of the Minnesota Vikings.
July 26 – Frank Clarke, who was a wide receiver in college and in the NFL, dies at the age of 84. Clarke played college football at the University of Colorado and was selected in the fifth round of the 1956 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He played for Cleveland from 1957-1959 and was then selected in an NFL expansion draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He was an original member of the Cowboys and played in Dallas from 1960-1967. His final game was the famous Ice Bowl game vs. the Green Bay Packers. Clarke was the first African-American to play at Colorado and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2008.
July 26 – Willie Brown, a tailback and flanker who won national championships as a player and a coach in college, dies at the age of 76. Brown played college football at USC and was a part of the school’s 1962 national championship team. He was selected in the third round of the 1964 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. He played in LA in 1964 and 1965 and for the Philadelphia Eagles in 1966. Brown returned to USC as an assistant football coach and won two more national championships in 1972 and 1974. He was also an assistant baseball coach at USC and won two college World Series titles in 1969 and 1970.
August 17 – Paul Naumoff, who played defensive end in college and was a linebacker in the NFL, dies at the age of 73. Naumoff played college football at the University of Tennessee. He was selected in the third round of the 1967 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions and played in Detroit for 12 seasons, from 1967-1978. He was named the Lions’ defensive MVP in 1975. Naumoff played in 168 game for Detroit. He recorded six interceptions and seven fumble recoveries in his career. Naumoff appeared as himself in the 1968 movie, Paper Lion.
August 21 – George Andrie, a defensive end in college and in the NFL, dies at the age of 78. Andrie played college football at Marquette and was selected in the sixth round of the 1962 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He was also selected in the 12th round of the 1962 AFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers. He played for the Cowboys for 11 seasons, from 1962-1972. Andrie played in the famous Ice Bowl game against the Green Bay Packers in 1967 and won the Super Bowl XI title with the team in 1972.
September 24 – Tommy McDonald, who played wide receiver in college and in the NFL, dies at the age of 84. McDonald played college football at Oklahoma. In his three seasons with the Sooners, the team never lost a game. He was selected in the third round of the 1957 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. McDonald played for the Eagles from 1957-1963 and won and NFL title with the Eagles in 1960. McDonald went on to play for the Dallas Cowboys in 1964, the Los Angeles Rams in 1965 and 1966, the Atlanta Falcons in 1967 and the Cleveland Browns in 1968. McDonald was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1998.
October 7 - John Gagliardi, the winningest coach in college football history, dies at the age of 91. Gagliardi began his college coaching career at Carroll College in Helena, Montana, from 1949 to 1952. He then spent six decades as the head coach at Division III Saint John's University in Minnesota, from 1953-2012. He retired with a record of 489-138-11. He surpassed the great Eddie Robinson of Grambling for the most career wins in 2003. Gagliardi won four National Championships at Saint John's (1963, 1965, 1976, 2003). He had an unconventional coaching style that included no tackling in practice, no lengthy calisthenics, no whistles and no wind sprints. There were no team captains, either. He insisted that his players just call him John, not Coach. He also spent time as the hockey coach and the track coach at Saint John's. He was the first active coach to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006. Since 1993, the Division III Outstanding Player of the Year Award has been called the Gagliardi Trophy.
October 8 – George Taliaferro, the first African-American ever drafted by an NFL team, dies at the age of 91. Taliaferro played college football at Indiana. He was selected in the 13thround of the 1949 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. However, a week before the draft, he had signed to play for the Los Angeles Dons of the rival All American Football Conference. The AAFC folded and the 1949 season and Taliaferro then signed with the NFL New York Yanks. He played for the Yanks in 1950 and 1951. He also played for the Dallas Texans in 1952, the Baltimore Colts in 1953 and 1954 and the Philadelphia Eagles in 1955. He played halfback but was also know to play quarterback, wide receiver, punter, defensive back, punt returner and kick returner. Taliaferro was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981.
October 9 – Alex Spanos, the owner of the San Diego Chargers, dies at the age of 95. Spanos bought 60% of the team in 1984 for $70 million. Over the years he bought out several other minority owner’s interests in the team until he owned 97% of the Chargers. He turned over the day-to-day operations of the team to his eldest son, Dean Spanos in 1994. It was Dean who made the decision to move the team to Los Angeles in 2017.
October 13 – Jim Taylor, a fullback who played for legendary coach Vince Lombardi, dies at the age of 83. Taylor played college football at Louisiana State and was selected in the second round of the 1958 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. He played for the Packers for nine seasons, from 1958-1966 and finished his playing career in 1967 with the New Orleans Saints. In 1960, Taylor became the second player in Packers history to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. He was named the league MVP in 1962 after he rushed for 1,474 yards and 19 touchdowns in a 14-game season. Taylor was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1976.
October 15 – Paul Allen, the owner of the Seattle Seahawks, dies from complications of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 65. Allen was a co-founder of Microsoft along with Bill Gates in 1975. Allen bought the Seahawks in 1997. Under his ownership, the team appeared in three Super Bowls. They lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL, they defeated the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII and lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. It was Allen who began the tradition of raising the 12th Man Flag before each home game to honor the fans who have supported the team. Allen was also the owner of the NBAs Portland Trailblazers.
October 21 – Charles Wang, who owned an NHL team and three Arena Football teams, dies at the age of 74. Wang is best known as the owner of the NHL New York Islanders from 2000-2016. In 2000, he bought the original Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League and then moved the team to New York where it was known as the New York Dragons. The Dragons played from 2001-2008. Wang also owned two other teams in the af2, which was the developmental league of the AFL; the New Haven Ninjas in 2002 and the Hawaiian Islanders, who played from 2002-2004.
October 23 – Rod Rust, who coached in college, the CFL and the NFL, dies at the age of 90. Rust played college football at Iowa State in 1947 and 1948. He was the head coach at the University of North Texas from 1967-1972. He also spent seven years coaching in the CFL with the Montreal Alouettes and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He was the Alouettes head coach for one season in 2001. Rust was also a coach in the NFL for 22 years, mainly as an assistant coach, with the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots. He spent one season as the Patriots head coach in 1990 posting a 1-15 record.
October 30 – Tom Braatz, a longtime front office executive in the NFL, dies at the age of 85. Braatz played college football at Marquette University. He was selected in the 14th round of the 1955 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins. Braatz played just four years in the NFL, 1957-1960, as a linebacker and defensive end. He played for three different teams: Washington, the Los Angeles Rams and the Dallas Cowboys. After his playing career was over, he worked for the Atlanta Falcons from 1965-1985 as a player scout, director of player personnel and general manager. Braatz also worked for the Green Bay Packers from 1987-1991 as the team’s vice president of football operations.
October 30 - Bob Skoronski, a three-time NFL champion, dies at the age of 84. Skoronski played college football at Indiana and was selected in the fifth round of the 1956 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. After his 1956 rookie season, he was drafted again, this time by the military, and served in the U.S. Air Force, missing the 1957 and 1958 NFL seasons. He returned to the Packers and played left tackle and center from 1959-1968. Skoronski is one of only nine players who played for Vince Lombardi during the nine seasons he coached in Green Bay (1959-1967). Skoronski won three straight NFL titles with the Packers, including the first two Super Bowls, from 1965-1967. He was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1976.
October 31 – Jack Patera, who played and coached in the NFL, dies at the age of 85. Patera played college football at Oregon and was selected in the fourth round of the 1955 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts. He played linebacker and offensive guard for the Colts from 1955-1957 and the Chicago Cardinals in 1958 and 1959. He was then selected by the Dallas Cowboys in their expansion draft in 1960 and played in Dallas through 1961. After he retired as a player, Patera went into coaching. He was a defensive assistant coach with the Los Angeles Rams and coached their defensive line known as the Fearsome Foursome. He then coached the defensive line of the Minnesota Vikings, which was known as the Purple People Eaters. He was named the first head coach of the expansion Seattle Seahawks in 1976 and coached the team through 1982. Patera was named NFL Coach of the Year in 1978.
November 4 – Bill “Boom Boom” Brown, a fullback who played 14 seasons in the NFL, dies at the age of 80. Brown played college football at Illinois and was selected in the second round of the 1961 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. He played his rookie season in Chicago and was then traded to the Minnesota Vikings, where he played for the next 13 seasons, from 1962-1974. Brown currently ranks fourth in Vikings history in rushing with 5,757 yards. He made the Pro Bowl four times during his playing career.
November 8, 2018 – Wally Triplett, one of the first African-American players to be drafted by an NFL team, dies at the age of 92, Triplett played college football at Penn State. He was selected in the 19th round of the 1949 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. He played running back, receiver and was a kick returner for the Lions in 1949 and 1950. In one game against the Los Angeles Rams, Triplett returned four kickoffs for distances of 97, 81, 74 and 42 yards, for an average of 73.5 yards per kickoff return. That single game return average remains an NFL record to this day. After playing seven games of the 1950 season, Triplett reported for service in the U.S. Army and served two years in the Korean War. When he returned, the Lions traded him to the Chicago Cardinals, where he played in 1952 and 1953, and then he retired. After his playing career was over, he returned to Detroit and became a teacher. (See also George Taliaferro obituary on October 8, 2018. Taliaferro was also drafted by an NFL team in 1949, but played in the AAFC that season)
November 10 – Ron Johnson, who played fullback and halfback in the NFL for seven seasons, dies at the age of 71. Johnson played college football at Michigan and was selected in the first round (20th overall) of the 1969 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. After his rookie season, he was traded to the New York Giants where he played through 1975. In 1970, he became the first Giants player to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season. He also ran for 1,182 yards in 1972. Johnson was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1992.
November 23 – Bob McNair, the owner of the NFL Houston Texans, dies at the age of 81 after a battle with several types of cancer. McNair paid $700 million in 1999 for the rights to an expansion team in Houston after the Houston Oilers left town. The team began play in 2002 and did not make the playoffs until 2011. The city of Houston has hosted two Super Bowls since 2004. McNair was also the chairman of the NFL’s Finance Committee. In July of 2018, Forbes magazine estimated the Texans worth at $2.8 billion. McNair’s son, Cal, is the team’s Chief Operating Officer and is expected to take over running the team.
December 3 - Alex Wizbicki, who was the oldest living former Green Bay Packers player, died at age 97. Wizbicki played college football at Dartmouth and Holy Cross. He was selected in the 18th round of the 1945 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, but never played for the Steelers. He played defensive back for the Buffalo Bills of the rival All-America Football Conference from 1947 to 1949. After the AAFC folded following the 1949 season, Wizbicki was selected by the Cleveland Browns in a special draft. The Browns cut him in training camp and he joined the Green Bay Packers, playing just one season in 1950.
December 6 – Isiah Robertson, who played linebacker n the NF for 12 seasons, dies in a car crash at the age of 69. Robertson played college football at Southern University and was selected in the first round (10th overall) of the 1971 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. He played for the Rams from 1971-1978 and was name the defensive player of the year in 1971. He finished his playing career with the with the Buffalo Bills from 1979-1982. Robertson struggled with addiction after his NFL career, and eventually discovered his calling as the founder of the House of Isaiah, a faith-based drug treatment center in Mabank, Texas.
December 7 – Tom Rossovich, who played defensive end and linebacker in college and in the NFL, dies at the age of 72. Rossovich played college football at USC and was selected in the first round (14th overall) in the 1968 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. His roommate in college was actor Tom Selleck. Rossovich played for the Eagles from 1968-1971 and the San Diego Chargers in 1972 and 1973. He then played in the World Football League in 1974 and 1975 for the Philadelphia Bell and returned to the NFL for one final season in 1976 with the Houston Oilers. After his playing career was over, Rossovich became an actor and appeared in 15 movies including The Sting II, Looker and Night shift. He also appeared in many television shows.
December 13 – Bill Fralic, who played offensive tackle in the NFL for nine seasons, dies at the age of 56. Fralic played college football at the University of Pittsburgh and was selected in the first round (second overall) of the 1985 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons. He played for the Falcons from 1985-1992 and finished his playing career with the Detroit Lions in 1993. After football, he went into the insurance business and did color commentary for University of Pittsburgh football games. Fralic was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998.
December 27 – Warren Wells, who played end and wide receiver in the American Football League and in the NFL for five seasons, dies at the age of 76. Wells played college football at Texas Southern and was selected in the 12th round of the 1964 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. He played just one season in Detroit before being released for off the field issues. Wells spent the next two years serving in the U.S. Army and got a second chance to play pro football in 1967 when he signed with the AFL Oakland Raiders. He played for the Raiders from 1967-1970. Wells made the Pro Bowl following the 1968 and 1970 seasons. However, he was arrested in the locker room after the 1970 Pro Bowl game for a probation violation. He spent 10 months in prison and never played football again. He led the AFL in touchdown catches in 1968 and 1969 and also played in Super Bowl II after the Raiders won the AFL title.
December 31 – Ted Urness, a six-time Canadian Football League All-Star, dies at the age of 81. Urness played college football at the University of Regina in Canada as well as the University of Arizona. He played guard, tackle and center for the CFL Saskatchewan Roughriders from 1961-1970. Urness helped lead the Roughriders to three Grey Cup appearances in 1966, 1967 and 1969, winning a CFL title in 1966. He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1989.