Football News Headlines
NOTE: The intent of the News Section is not to dwell on negative stories that are more suited to be found in the Police and Crime Section of your local newspaper, but to report and document stories that cover the entire realm of The World of Football. Chances are, you may not have seen some of these stories before.
(Obituary) May 14, 2019 – Ezra Castro, also known as Buffalo Bills Super Fan Pancho Billa, dies of cancer at the age of 39. Castro lived in Dallas, Texas where he was a mortician, but he had been a Bills fan since the age of seven. He traveled to Bills home games and many away games dressed in a sombrero, luchador mask, sarape poncho, a bandolier and leather arm guards, all in team colors. Castro announced the Bills third round pick during the 2018 NFL Draft when it was held in Dallas. In November 2018, he became the first Bills fan to be inducted into the team’s Fan Wall of Fame. He was also the president of the Dallas-Fort Worth Bills Backers Club. During this year's NFL Draft in Nashville, TN, former Bills player Coy Wire had Castro live on his phone via Face Time from the hospital as he announced the Buffalo third round draft pick.
(Obituary) May 11, 2019 – Gunther Cunningham, who coached in the NFL for 34 years, dies at the age of 72. Cunningham was born in Germany and did not even speak English when he moved to the United States shortly after World War II. From 1969-1980, he was a college football assistant coach at Oregon, Arkansas, Stanford and California. He spent the 1981 season with the CFL Hamilton Tiger-Cats coaching the defensive line and linebackers. Cunningham then became an NFL assistant coach with the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, Los Angeles Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs. He was also the head coach of the Chiefs in 1999 and 2000 posting a 16-16 record. He then became an assistant coach with the Tennessee Titans, the Chiefs again and finally, the Detroit Lions. In all, Cunningham was a coach for 48 years (1969-2017).
(Obituary) May 10, 2019 – Dick Tomey, a college football head coach for 29 seasons, dies at the age of 80. Tomey was the head coach at Hawaii from 1977-1986, Arizona from 1987-2000 and San Jose State from 2005-2009. His overall record as a head coach was 183-145-7. Over the course of his coaching career, he also spent time as an assistant coach at Kansas, UCLA, Davidson, Miami of Ohio and Northern Illinois.
(Obituary) May 4, 2019 – MacArthur Lane, a running back in the NFL for three different teams, dies at the age of 77. Lane, who was called “Mac the Truck” by his team mates, played college football at Utah State and was selected in the first round of the 1968 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. He played in St. Louis from 1968-1971. He was then traded to the Green Bay Packers and played there from 1972-1974. The Packers then traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs where he finished his playing career from 1975-1978.
(CFL) May 2, 2019 – The Canadian Football League held its annual player draft. The Toronto Argonauts had the first overall selection and took OL Shane Richards from Oklahoma State. A total of 73 Canadian nationals were selected during the eight rounds of the draft.
(Obituary) April 30, 2019 – Gino Marchetti, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, dies at the age of 93. Marchetti played college football at San Francisco and was selected in the second round (14th overall selection) of the 1952 NFL Draft by the Dallas Texans. The Texans played only one season in Dallas and then the team and Marchetti moved to Baltimore where they became the Baltimore Colts. Marchetti played in Baltimore from 1953-1966 and won two NFL titles in 1958 and 1959. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of fame in 1972.
(Obituary) April 28, 2019 – Dan Conners, who played middle linebacker for 11 seasons in the NFL, dies at the age of 78. Conners played defensive tackle at Miami and was selected in the second round of the 1964 American Football League Draft by the Oakland Raiders. He was also selected in the fifth round of the 1964 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. Conners played his entire career in Oakland from 1964-1974. He won an AFL title in 1967 and was on the Raiders team that lost to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl II. After his playing career was over, he spent time as an assistant coach with the San Francisco 49ers and also as a player scout with the Raiders and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Conners was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame in 1977.
(NFL) April 25, 2019 – The NFL Draft begins in Nashville, TN. With the first overall pick, the Arizona Cardinals selected QB Kyler Murray from Oklahoma. It was the second year in a row that a Heisman winning quarterback from Oklahoma was taken as the first overall selection (Last year, it was Baker Mayfield to the Cleveland Browns)
(Obituary) April 20, 2019 – Reggie Cobb, who was a running back in the NFL for seven seasons, dies at the age of 50. The cause of death was not immediately known. Cobb played college football at Tennessee and was selected in the second round of the 1990 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He played for the Bucs for four season, from 1990-1993, and also played for the Green Bay Packers in 1994, the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995 and the New York Jets in 1996. After his playing career was over, he worked as a player scout for several NFL teams.
(AAF) April 17, 2019 – The Alliance of American Football officially files for bankruptcy.
(Obituary) April 12, 2019 – Forrest Gregg, who played and coached in the NFL, dies at the age of 85. Gregg played college football at SMU and was selected in the second round of the 1956 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. He played offensive tackle and guard in Green Bay in 1956 and from 1958-1970. He finished his playing career with the Dallas Cowboys in 1971. He was also a head coach in the NFL for 11 seasons. He coached the Cleveland Browns from 1975-1977, the Cincinnati Bengals from 1980-1983 and the Packers from 1984-1987. He also coached the CFL-USA Shreveport Pirates in 1994 and 1995. Gregg was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player in 1977.
(CFL) April 11, 2019 – The Canadian Football League conducts a one-round draft of European football players. It was the first such draft ever in league history. Each of the nine CFL teams picked one player out of 18 possible candidates. With the first overall pick, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats selected DL Valentin Gnahoua from France. In all, there were four players selected from France, three from Germany and one each from Italy and Finland. Three players were wide receivers, three were linebackers, two were defensive linemen and one was a running back.
(AAF) April 2, 2019 – The Alliance of American Football suspends operation. It had completed just eight games of the inaugural 10-game regular season.
(Obituary) March 28, 2019 – Joe Bellino, the 1960 Heisman Trophy winner, dies at the age of 81. Bellino played halfback in college at the Naval Academy. His nickname was the “Winchester Rifle” because he was born and raised in Winchester, New York. His jersey number 27 has been retired by the Academy. He was selected in the 19th round of the 1961 AFL Draft by the Boston Patriots. He was also selected in the 17th round of the 1961 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins. After serving four years in the Navy, he chose to play for the Patriots and was with them for three seasons, from 1965-1967. Bellino was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1977.
(Obituary) March 25, 2019 – Ordell Braase, a defensive end who won three championships in the NFL, dies at the age of 87. Braase played college football at the University of South Dakota and was selected in the 14th round of the 1954 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts. After college, he spent three years in the Army before joining the Colts. While in the Army, he spent time serving in Japan and Korea and even played in the 1955 Rice Bowl, a football All-Star game played in Tokyo that was made up of service members. Braase played 12-seasons with the Colts from 1957-1968 and won NFL titles in 1958, 1959 and 1968, but lost to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. After his playing career was over, he spent time as a radio sideline reporter and color commentator for Colts games. He also co-hosted a local Baltimore TV show called, “Braase, Donovan and Fans,” with his former Colts team mate, Art Donovan. Braase is a member of the South Dakota Sport Hall of Fame.
(Obituary) March 23, 2019 – Clem Daniels, a running back who was the AFL MVP in 1963, dies at the age of 81. Daniels played college football at Prairie View A&M and signed as a free agent with the Dallas Texans in 1960. He played just one season for the Texans and was traded to the Oakland Raiders in 1961. Daniels played in Oakland through 1967. Oakland won the AFL championship in 1967, but lost in Super Bowl II to the Green Bay Packers. He finished his playing career with the San Francisco 49ers in 1968.
(Obituary) March 21, 2019 – Mike Cofer, who played in the NFL for 10 seasons, dies at the age of 58. Cofer played college football at the University of Tennessee and was selected in the third round of the 1983 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions. He played his entire career in Detroit as a defensive end and linebacker from 1983-1992. A torn ACL ended his playing career. After his NFL career, Cofer became a day trader in the stock market.
(Obituary) March 15, 2019 – Johnny (Lam) Jones, an Olympic gold medalist who also played wide receiver in the NFL, dies of cancer at the age of 60. Jones won a gold medal in the 4x100-meter relay during the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. He then went on to play college football at the University of Texas and was also a record setting All American sprinter on the Longhorns track team. There was another player on the Texas football team also named Johnny Jones, so coach Darrel Royal gave them the nicknames Ham and Lam, based on their respective hometowns. Lam Jones was selected in the first round, second overall, of the 1980 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. He played in New York from 1980-1984, and signed a $2.1 million, six-year contract. At the time, it was the first million-dollar contract in the pro football history. However, Jones was injured for most of his career and never lived up to his first-round status. He spent the 1985 and 1986 seasons on injured reserve. The Jets traded him to the San Francisco 49ers in 1987, but they cut him in training camp. He then signed with the Dallas Cowboys and was also cut by the team shortly thereafter, thus ending his pro football career.
(Obituary) March 10, 2019 – Al Silverman, a magazine editor and publishing executive, dies at the age of 92. Silverman collaborated with Chicago Bears running back Gale Sayers to write the book, “I am Third,” which was an autobiography of Sayers. It was published in 1970. One chapter in the book became the basis for the 1971 made-for-TV movie, “Brian’s Song,” starring Billy Dee Williams and James Caan. The movie won an Emmy in 1972 and told the true story of Sayers and his relationship with a dying team mate, Brian Piccolo.
(Obituary) March 10, 2019 – Eric Moss, the older, half-brother of Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss, dies at the age of 44. The cause of death was not immediately known. Eric played college football at Ohio State. He was with the Minnesota Vikings in 1997 and 1998 as an offensive lineman, but never played in an NFL game due to injuries. He did play one season in NFL Europe with the Scottish Claymores in 1999.
(Obituary) March 9, 2019 – Joe Auer, a running back who scored the first points in Miami Dolphins history, dies at the age of 77. Auer played college football at Georgia Tech and was selected in the 5th round of the 1963 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams. He was also selected that year in the 15th round of the AFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs. He signed with the Chiefs but was traded to the Buffalo Bills during the preseason. Auer played for the Bills in 1964 and 1965, winning back-to-back AFL titles in Buffalo. In 1966, he signed with the AFL expansion Miami Dolphins. In the team’s first regular season game on September 2, 1966, against the Oakland Raiders in the Orange Bowl in Miami, Auer received the opening kickoff and returned it 95 yards for a touchdown! He also led the team in rushing that season with 416 yards and was named the team’s first MVP. Auer played in Miami in 1966 and 1967. He finished his playing career with the Atlanta Falcons in 1968. After his playing career was over, Auer founded RaceCar Engineering, a company which built NASCAR racing cars.
(Obituary) March 8, 2019 – Cedrick Hardman, who played defensive end in the NFL for 12 seasons, dies at the age of 70. Hardman played college football at North Texas State and was selected in the first round (ninth overall) of the 1970 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He played in San Francisco from 1970-1979. He then moved across the bay and played his final two season with the Oakland Raiders in 1980 and 1981. He won a Super Bowl with the Raiders when Oakland beat the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10 in Super Bowl XV. He also played briefly for the Oakland Invaders of the USFL in 1983. After he retired from football he became an actor. He appeared in the movies "House Party" with Kid and Play and "Stir Crazy" with Gene Wilder and Richard Pryer Hardman also appeared on television shows such as "Police Woman" and "The Fall Guy."
(Arena) March 7, 2019 - The Arena Football League announced that the new expansion team in New Jersey will be called the Atlantic City Blackjacks. Other names in the running were Gamblers, Royals, Jackpot and High Rollers. The team begins play in April.
(Obituary) March 7, 2019 – Dan Jenkins, a sports writer who covered golf and football for Sport Illustrated, dies at the age of 89. Jenkins began working for Sports Illustrated in 1962. He wrote a number of books over the years, both fiction and non-fiction, on the subject of sports. In 1972, he wrote the book, “Semi-Tough,” a fictional tale of life in pro football. The book was made into a movie in 1977 starring Burt Reynolds and Kris Kristofferson. In 2017, the football stadium press box at Texas Christian University was named in his honor. Jenkins graduated from TCU in 1953.
(Obituary) March 5, 2019 – Tom Davis, who was a center in the CFL and the USFL, dies at the age of 63. Davis played college football at Nebraska and was selected in the sixth round of the 1978 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. He never played for the Raiders, however. Instead, he played two seasons in the CFL from 1978-1979, with the Toronto Argonauts and the Ottawa Roughriders. Davis also played for the USFL Denver Gold from 1983-1985.
(Obituary) February 10, 2019 – Mason “Red” Cashion, an NFL official for 25 years, dies at the age of 87. Cashion began his NFL officiating career in 1972 as a line judge. He was promoted to referee in 1976 and was the referee in Super Bowl XX and Super Bowl XXX. He worked almost 500 NFL games during his career including 18 post-season games and one Pro Bowl.
(AAF) February 9, 2019 - The Alliance of American Football began its inaugural season. In the first two games played that night, the San Antonio Commanders defeated the visiting San Diego Fleet 15-6. In the second game, the Orlando Apollos defeated the visiting Atlanta Legends 40-6.
(NFL) February 3, 2019 - The New England Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams 13-3 in Super Bowl LIII. The game was played in Atlanta. Patriots QB Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick won their sixth Super Bowl titles. Belichick is now tied with Curly Lambeau and George Halas for most NFL titles.
(Obituary) February 1, 2019 – Wade Wilson, who played and coached in the NFL, dies at the age of 60. Wilson played college football at Division II Texas A&M–Commerce and was selected in the eighth round of the 1981 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He played quarterback for the Vikings for 10 seasons, in 1981 and from 1983-1991. He also played for the Atlanta Falcons in 1992, the New Orleans Saints in 1993 and 1994, the Dallas Cowboys from 1995-1997 and the Oakland Raiders in 1998, for a total of 17 seasons in the NFL. He won a Super Bowl ring with the Cowboys as the backup quarterback to Troy Aikman in Super Bowl XXX. When his playing career was over, Wilson went into coaching. He was the quarterback’s coach for the Cowboys from 1999-2001 and for the Chicago Bears from 2002-2004. He then returned to the Cowboys as quarterback’s coach from 2005-2015.
(Obituary) January 26, 2019 – Duane Benson, a linebacker in the NFL for 10 seasons, dies at the age of 73. Benson played college football at Hamline College and was selected in the 11th round of the 1967 NFL Draft by the Oakland Raiders. He played for Oakland from 1967-1971 and was on the Raiders team that lost to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl II. He went on to play for the Atlanta Falcons from 1972-1973 and the Houston Oilers from 1974-1976. After his playing career was over, Benson went on to serve in the Minnesota Senate from 1980-1994 and spent time as the Senate Minority Leader. More recently, he was also a member of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, which oversaw construction of the Minnesota Viking new home, U.S. Bank Stadium, which was completed in 2016.
(Obituary) January 21, 2019 – Tony Flynn, a radio play-by-play announcer who broadcast NFL and college football games, dies at the age of 92. Flynn was on the broadcast team of the Green Bay Packers from 1951-1957. In 1961, he went to work for his brother, who owned a radio station in Hillsdale, Michigan. Flynn eventually bought the radio station himself. He did play-by-play on radio broadcasts of Hillsdale College football games for 38 years, from 1961-1998. He was inducted into the Hillsdale College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1999.
(Obituary) January 18, 2019 – Dan Orlich, the last surviving player from the Curley Lambeau coaching era, dies at the age of 94. Orlich played college football at Northwestern, Penn State and at the University of Nevada-Reno. Orlich played defensive end as well as offensive end. He was selected in the eighth round of the 1949 NFL Draft by Lambeau and the Green Bay Packers. He played three seasons in Green Bay, 1949-1951, but only one season under Lambeau as Gene Ronzani took over as the Packers head coach in 1950. After his short NFL career was over, he returned to Reno and went to work in the casino industry. He also took up trapshooting as a sport. Orlich won 13 major championships and was inducted into the National Trapshooting Hall of Fame in 1979.
(Obituary) January 17, 2019 – Joe O’Donnell, a lineman in the American Football League and the World Football League, dies at the age of 77. O’Donnell played college football at the University of Michigan and was selected in the third round of the 1964 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers. He was also selected in the 13th round of the 1964 American Football League Draft by the Buffalo Bills. He signed with the Bills and played in Buffalo from 1964-1971, winning back-to-back AFL titles in 1964 and 1965. He missed the 1968 season due to a knee injury. The Bills traded O’Donnell to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1972, but he decided to retire rather that join the Cardinals. O’Donnell came out of retirement in 1974 to play in the World Football League for the Birmingham Americans. He won the only WFL title game ever played with the Americans. O’Donnell then returned to his home town of Milan, Michigan where he was a long-time assistant high school football coach. The football field at Milan High School was named after him in 2009.
(Obituary) January 12, 2019 - Bob Kuechenberg, who played guard in the NFL for 14 seasons, dies at the age of 71. Kuechenberg played college football at Notre Dame and was selected in the fourth round of the 1969 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. However, he did not want to sign with the Eagles so he played the 1969 season for the Chicago Owls of the Continental Football League. He then signed with the Miami Dolphins in 1970 and played for the team through 1983. Kuechenberg won back-to-back Super Bowls and was a member of the 1972 undefeated Dolphins team. He was known as one of the toughest players in the NFL, playing at different times with a broken back, broken ankle and a fractured forearm. He was named to the Dolphins Honor Roll in 1995.
(Obituary) January 10, 2019 – Arnold Tucker, who won two national championships in college, dies at the age of 95. Tucker played quarterback for Army share the backfield with Heisman Trophy winners “Doc” Blanchard and Glenn Davis. The Heisman duo was known as Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside. Tucker was known as Mr. Topside and won back-to-back Associated Press national championships, leading West Point to a 27-0-1 record. Tucker never played pro football. He spent time as an assistant coach at West Point along with Vince Lombardi. He served 31 years in the military, retiring in 1974. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008. Tucker is also a member of the United States Military Academy Athletic Hall of Fame, the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame and the Miami High School Hall of Fame.
(Obituary) January 10, 2019 – John Michels, who played and coached in the CFL and the NFL, dies at the age of 87. Michels played college football at Tennessee and was selected in the 25th round of the 1953 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. He played guard for one season with the Eagles in 1953 before serving in the U.S. Army from 1954-1956. Michels then played one season in the CFL for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1957 where he played for head coach Bud Grant. Michels then joined the Blue Bombers coaching staff and when Bud Grant was hired by the NFL Minnesota Vikings in 1967, Michels joined the Vikings coaching staff as well. He coached offensive line and running backs in Minnesota for 27 seasons, from 1967-1993. Michels was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. He is also a member of the All-Time Cotton Bowl Team.
(Obituary) January 9, 2019 – Rick Forzano, a former head coach in college and in the NFL, dies at the age of 90. Forzano began his coaching career in college at Wooster College in Ohio in 1956. He was also an assistant coach at Kent State in 1957 and 1958 and at Navy from 1959-1963. He was also a head coach at Connecticut in 1964 and 1965 and Navy from 1969-1972. In the NFL, he spent time as an assistant coach with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cincinnati Bengals before becoming the Detroit Lions head coach in 1974. He coached in Detroit in 1974 and 1975 before being fired four games into the 1976 season. While in Detroit he hired a young unknown coach named Bill Belichick, who would go on to lead the New England Patriots to five Super Bowl wins. (so far)
(College) January 7, 2019 – The #2 Clemson Tigers defeated the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide 44-16 in the FBS College Football National Championship game, which was played in Atlanta. They are the first national championship team to finish the season 15-0 since the 1897 Penn Quakers.
(Obituary) January 8, 2019 – Roy Hilton, a defensive end in the NFL for 11 seasons, dies at the age of 75. Hilton played college football at Jackson State and was drafted in the 15th round of the 1965 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts. He was also selected that same year in the eighth round of the American Football League Draft by the Houston Oilers. He signed with the Colts and played in Baltimore for nine seasons, from 1965-1973. He helped lead the Colts to a win over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V. Hilton finished his playing career with the New York Giants in 1974 and the Atlanta Falcons in 1975.
(Obituary) January 6, 2019 – Kwamie Lassiter, who was a safety in the NFL for 10 seasons, dies of a heart attack while working out. He was 49 years old. Lassiter played college football at Butler County Community College and at Kansas. He signed with the Arizona Cardinals and played for the Cardinals for eight seasons, from 1995-2002. He also played for the San Diego Chargers in 2003 and the St. Louis Rams in 2004.
(College) January 5, 2019 – In the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) title game, the North Dakota State Bison defeated the Eastern Washington Eagles 38-24 and finished the season with a perfect 15-0 record. It was the seventh CFC title for the Bison in the last eight years, the most in FCS history. The game was played in Frisco, TX.
(Obituary) January 2, 2019 - Jim Margraff, the winningest head coach ever at Division III Johns Hopkins University, dies at the age of 58. The cause of death was not immediately given, but he did undergo open-heart surgery in 2005. Margraff was a record setting quarterback when he played at the school. He graduated in 1985 and became the head coach in 1990. He was still coaching the team this past season, losing in the semi-final round of the playoffs. Margraff posted a record of 221-89-3 in his 29 seasons at the school.
(Obituary) January 2, 2019 – George Welsh, a Hall of Fame coach in college football, dies at the age of 85. Welsh was a quarterback for Navy from 1953-1955. He then served in the Navy for eight years before getting into coaching. Welsh started out as an assistant coach at Penn State before becoming the head coach at Navy in 1973. He coached the Midshipmen for nine seasons, from 1973-1981. He then became the head coach at Virginia, where he coached from 1982-2000. His overall coaching record was 189-132-4 and be became the winningest head coach at both schools. Welsh was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2004.