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Notable Football Deaths in 2014

by Randy Snow

Original to www.theworldoffootball.com, Saturday, December 20, 2014

Every year, we lose a number of football greats and this year was no different. Some were household names. Others you probably have never heard of before, but their contributions to the game should not be forgotten. Here are some of the football greats we lost in 2014;

January 1, 2014 - Dave Martin, an Associated Press photographer from Montgomery, Alabama, dies of a heart attack at the age of 59. Martin was at the Georgia Dome taking pictures of the celebrations on the field after Texas A&M beat Duke 52-48 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl when he collapsed. He was given CPR on the field and then taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead in the early morning hours after the game. He had worked for the AP since 1984. 

January 7, 2014 - Peter "Woody" Kern, a former owner in the Arena Football League, dies at the age of 66. The cause of death was not immediately known. Kern was the owner of the Tampa Bay Storm from 1994-2007. During that time, the team won ArenaBowl titles in 1995, 1996 and 2003. He also owned two other AFL teams over the years; the Fort Worth Cavalry in 1993 and the Dallas Vigilantes from 2010-2011, as well as several minor league baseball teams.

January 12, 2014 – Joe Cipiti, the grandfather of two NFL head coaches, dies at the age of 98. His grandsons are Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh and San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. Cipiti was in attendance at last year’s Super Bowl in New Orleans when his grandsons faced off against each other.

January 13, 2014 – Norm Parker, a former longtime assistant coach at Iowa, dies at the age of 72. Parker played college football at Eastern Michigan where he was a position players and a placekicker. He also began his college coaching career there in 1968. Parker also spent time coaching at Wake Forest (1969-1971), Minnesota (1972-1976), Illinois (1977-1979), East Carolina (1980-1982), Michigan State (1983-1994) and Vanderbilt (1994-1997). He was the defensive coordinator at Iowa for 13 years from 1999-2011. Parker was inducted into the Eastern Michigan University Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.

January 20, 2014 – Billy Ross, who played college football and survived a plane crash that killed many of his teammates, dies at the age of 78. Ross, played defensive tackle for Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and was 25-years-old when the plane carrying his team crashed while landing in Toledo, Ohio on October 29, 1960. Sixteen players and six others were killed. Ross was one of the 26 survivors that day and spent several months in a Toledo hospital receiving skin graphs and rehabilitating from burns suffer in the crash. He graduated from Cal Poly in 1963 and went on to become a high school teacher and a football coach.  

January 22, 2014 – Peter Titanic, who was a wide receiver in the Canadian Football League, dies at the age of 93. Titanic played for the Toronto Argonauts from 1946-1950. He won three Grey Cup titles with the Argos in 1946, 1947 and 1950.

January 28, 2014 – Harry Gamble, who was a former coach and general manager in the NFL, dies at the age of 83. Gamble played college football at Rider College in Lawrenceville, New Jersey where he was an offensive lineman, graduating in 1952. He went on to be an assistant coach at the University of Pennsylvania from 1962-1966 and was the head coach at Lafayette from 1967-1970. He returned to the U of Penn and was the head coach from 1971-1980. Gamble was a volunteer assistant coach with the NFL Philadelphia Eagles in 1981. He joined the coaching staff full-time in 1982, coaching tight ends and special teams. He became the Eagles’ director of player personnel in 1984 and became the team general manager in 1985. Gamble was also the team president as well as the GM of the Eagles from 1986-1994. His son, Tom Gamble, is currently the Eagles’ vice president of player personnel.

January 30, 2014  Bill Bradshaw, the father of Pro Football Hall of Famer and current FOX pregame analyst Terry Bradshaw, dies at the age of 86.

March 2, 2014 – Randy Trautman, who won a national championship in college and played in the Canadian Football League, dies at the age of 53. Trautman played college football at Boise State, which, at the time, was a member of the NCAA's Division I-AA. He was a walk-on defensive tackle who helped lead the team to the 1980 Division I-AA national championship. He was the Big Sky Conference Player of the Year in 1981. Trautman was selected in the ninth round of the 1982 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins. However, he never played for the team. Instead, he signed with the CFL Calgary Stampeders and playing in Calgary from 1982-1985. He was elected to the Boise State Hall of Fame in 1990 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999.

March 9, 2014 – William Clay Ford, owner of the Detroit Lions, dies from complications of pneumonia at the age of 88. Ford was the last surviving grandchild of Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford and the son of Edsel Ford. He and his father began attending Lions games in 1934, the first season the team was in Detroit after moving from Portsmouth, Ohio. He became one of the directors of the team in 1956 and then president of the Lions in 1961 at the age of 36. In October of 1963, he made a bid to be the sole owner of the team for $4.5 million. The board approved his bid on November 22, 1963, just about a half hour before President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. Ford officially took over the team on January 10, 1964. Over the past 50 years, his Lions posted a disappointing record of 310 wins, 441 losses and 13 ties. They won just one playoff game for him, in 1992, over the Dallas Cowboys.

March 25, 2014 – Hank Lauricella, who was the 1951 Heisman Trophy runner-up, dies at the age of 83. Lauricella played college football at Tennessee from 1949-1951 and finished second in voting to Dick Kazmaier, a halfback from Princeton. Lauricella helped lead the Volunteers to the 1951 national championship. He earned the nickname “Mr. Everything” because he not only was a tailback in a single-wing offense, but he also played safety, he punted and was a kick returner on punts and kickoffs. He never played professional football. Instead, he went in to politics and served in the Louisiana state legislature for over 30 years. He was a state representative from 1964-1972 and a state senator from 1972-1996. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981.

March 25, 2014 – Ralph Wilson, the owner of the NFL Buffalo Bills, dies at the age of 95. Wilson was a minority owner of the Detroit Lions in the 1950s, but sold his share of the team when he joined on to help found the American Football League in 1959. He paid $25,000 and became the owner of the Bills in the upstart league. Wilson was instrumental in arranging the first television deal for the AFL with NBC. His team won AFL titles in 1964 and 1965. The Bills also won four straight AFC titles in the 1990s, but lost in the Super Bowl. He was the last survivor of the original eight AFL owners. The team will be placed in a trust until it can be sold to a new owner. Wilson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.

April 2, 2014  Sandy Grossman, who was a television sports director, dies of cancer at the age of 78. Grossman worked with legendary sportscasters Pat Summerall and John Madden for over 20 years, first at CBS and then at FOX. He directed a record 10 Super Bowls as well as 18 NBA Finals and five Stanley Cup Finals. During his career, Grossman won eight Emmy’s for his television work.

April 25, 2014 – Earl Morrall, who was a quarterback in the NFL for 21 years, dies at the age of 79. Morrall played college football at Michigan State and led the team to two Rose Bowl victories. He also played college baseball and was an infielder for the Spartans in the 1954 College World Series.  Morrall was selected with the second overall pick in the 1956 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers, but was with the team only one season. He played for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1957 and was traded to the Detroit Lions in 1958 in exchange for quarterback Bobby Layne. He played for the Lions through 1964, then was with the New York Giants from 1965-1967, the Baltimore Colts from 1968-1971 and the Miami Dolphins from 1972-1976. Morrall stepped in for Dolphins quarterback Bob Griese, who had broken his ankle, and started 9 regular season games in 1972 to help lead the team to a 17-0 perfect season. He won three Super Bowls, one with the Colts and two with Miami. Morrall was inducted into the Dolphins Walk of Fame in 2012.

April 26, 2014 – David Langner, a former college football player, dies at the age of 62 after a battle with cancer. Langner was a defensive back at Auburn who made a name for himself in the 1972 Iron Bowl game against previously undefeated Alabama. Langner returned two blocked punts for touchdowns in the 17-16 win over the Crimson Tide. The game has since become known as the “Punt Bama Punt” game. The 1972 Auburn team became known as “The Amazins,” finishing the season 10-1 and ranked fifth in the Associated Press poll. 

April 27, 2014 – Dan Colchico, a former defensive end in the NFL, dies at the age of 76. Colchico played college football at San Jose State and was selected in the seventh round of the 1959 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He played for the 49ers from 1960-1965 and then spent another two years with the team, one as a defensive line coach and another working in public relations. Colchico played one more season in the NFL when he suited up for the New Orleans Saints in 1969.

May 6, 2014  Bill Nunn, who was a long-time scout for the Pittsburgh Steelers, dies at the age of 89. Nunn played basketball at West Virginia State and studied journalism. He became a sports writer, sports editor and eventually became the managing editor of The Pittsburgh Courier. He began scouting players for the Steelers part-time in 1967 and it worked into a full-time job in 1969. He worked as a scout in the NFL for 46 seasons. Nunn helped put together the Steelers teams that won four Super Bowls in the 1970s. His specialty was scouting traditionally black colleges for talent. From 1950-1974, he selected the Black College All-American football team. In 2010, Nunn was inducted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame as a member of its inaugural class.

May 8, 2014 – Tommie Wright, the man who wrote the Florida State fight song, dies at the age of 95. Wright became a music professor at FSU in 1949 and composed the fight song in 1950. He retired in 2008 but remained an ambassador to the FSU Alumni Association. He was given an honorary doctorate in music from the school in 2012.

May 28, 2014 – Malcolm Glazer, the owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, dies at the age of 85. Glazer bought the Bucs in 1995 from original team owner Hugh Culverhouse for $192 million which, at the time, was a record for an NFL team. He brought in Jon Gruden to coach the team in 2002 and Gruden led them to a win in Super Bowl XXXVII in January 2003. In 2005, amid protests from British soccer fans, Glazer bought the Manchester United soccer club of the Barclays Premier League for $1.47 billion. This year, Forbes Magazine listed Glazer at No. 354 on its list of the world’s richest people with an estimated net worth of $4.2 billion.

May 30, 2014 – Don Barry, who played in the Canadian Football League for 11 seasons, dies at the age of 82. Barry was an offensive and defensive lineman for the Edmonton Eskimos from 1952-1962 and won three consecutive Grey Cup championships between 1954-1956. He was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. 

June 13, 2014 – Chuck Noll, who led the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowl titles in the 1970s, dies at the age of 82. Noll played college football at Dayton and was drafted in the 20th round of the 1953 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. He played guard, center and linebacker and retired as a player for the Browns in 1959. Noll was an assistant coach with the San Diego Chargers and the Baltimore Colts for nine seasons before signing on as the head coach in Pittsburgh in 1969. He coached the Steelers for 23 season, posting a 209-156-1 record and winning Super Bowls in 1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979. He retired from coaching in 1991. His Pittsburg teams produced nine Hall of Famers. Noll himself was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.

June 14, 2014 – Rodney Thomas, who was a running back in the NFL for seven seasons, dies at the age of 41. The cause of death was not immediately known. Thomas played college football at Texas A&M, He was selected in the third round of the 1995 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers. He played for the Oilers/Tennessee Titans through 2000 and spent his final season playing for the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. Thomas led his high school football team to back-to-back state titles in 1989 and 1990.

July 20, 2014 – Lionel Gundy-White, an original member of the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League, dies at the age of 92. He played halfback for the team in 1945 and 1946. Gundy-White played college football with the West End Tornadoes junior team before serving three and a half years in the Canadian Navy. He was also once the waterboy for the Calgary Bronks, a pro team that preceded the Stampeders in Calgary from 1935-1940. He was a season ticket holder of the Stampeders for almost 60 years and even attended a game just last month. Gundy-White is believed to be the last surviving member of the original Stampeders team from 1945.

July 22, 2014 – Robert Newhouse, a running back in the NFL for 12 seasons, dies of heart disease at the age of 64. Newhouse played college football at University of Houston and was selected in the second round of the 1972 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He played for the Cowboys from 1972-1983 and played in three Super Bowls, winning a title when Dallas beat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XII.

June 24, 2014  Bill Frank, a former offensive lineman in the Canadian Football League, dies at the age of 76. Frank played college football at San Diego Junior College and at the University of Colorado. He signed with the CFL British Columbia Lions in 1962 and was then selected by the Dallas Cowboys in 18th round of the 1963 NFL Draft.  The Cowboys traded two players to the Lions for Frank’s playing rights. He played in Dallas for just one season (1964) and then signed with the CFL Toronto Argonauts in 1965. He played in Toronto from 1965-1968, then finished his playing career with the CFL Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 1969-1976. Frank was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2001. 

September 5, 2014 – Ken Reed, who played linebacker in the Canadian Football League, dies at the age of 72 as the result of an auto accident in British Columbia. His wife was also killed in the crash. Reed played college football at the University of Tulsa. He went on to play in the CFL for the Edmonton Eskimos in 1963 and 1964 and then for the Saskatchewan Roughriders from 1965-1970, winning a Grey Cup title in 1966. He was inducted in the Roughriders Plaza of Honor in 2006.

September 8, 2014 - Austin "Goose" Gonsoulin, who was a safety in the AFL and NFL, dies at the age of 76. Gonsoulin played college football at Baylor and was drafted in the 17th round of the 1960 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. However, he signed with the Denver Broncos of rival the American Football League and played in Denver from 1960-1966. He played his final season in 1967 with the 49ers. He was an inaugural member of the Broncos Ring of Fame when it was created in 1984.

September 20, 2014 - Rob Bironas, who was a former placekicker in the NFL, dies in a single car accident in Nashville, TN at the age of 36. The accident occurred less than a mile from his home. Authorities say neither drugs nor alcohol appears to have been a factor in the crash. Bironas played college football at Georgia Southern. He signed with the Tennessee Titans in 2005 and played for the team through 2013. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2007. Bironas married Rachel Bradshaw, the daughter of Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, and now FOX broadcaster, Terry Bradshaw, in June.

October 5, 2014  Al Bruno, who was a player and coach in the Canadian Football League, dies at the age of 87. Bruno played for the Toronto Argonauts from 1952-1954, the Ottawa Rough Riders in 1954 and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 1955-1956. He was the head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats from 1983-1990, leading the team to four Grey Cup appearances. The Tiger-Cats won the Grey Cup in 1986 and Bruno was named CFL Coach of the Year. Bruno also spent time coaching in college at McMaster University in Canada and at Harvard.  

October 9, 2014 – Harley Clark, the man who is credited with creating the famous Hook‘em Horns hand gesture, dies at the age of 78. Clark was a member of the Texas Longhorns cheerleading squad in 1955 when he came up with the hand gesture, which has been a staple at the school ever since. He debuted it during a pep rally for the team’s upcoming game against TCU. Clark went on to become a lawyer and was appointed a district judge in 1977.

October 12, 2014 – Tommy Lewis, who made one of the most infamous plays in all of college football, dies at the age of 83. Lewis played fullback in college at Alabama from 1951-1953. It was during his final college game, the 1954 Cotton Bowl vs. Rice, that Lewis made his mark on college football history. Rice running back Dickey Moegel was running for a touchdown near the sidelines by the Alabama bench. Lewis, who was standing on the sideline, ran onto the field and tackled Moegel then quickly got off the field and sat on the bench. Officials saw what happened and awarded Rice a touchdown. Moegel was credited with a 95-yard touchdown on the play and finished the game with 265 total rushing yards, a Cotton Bowl record. Rice went on to win the game 28-6. Lewis went on to play in the Canadian Football League. He also spent time as an assistant coach at Alabama for one year and then went on to be a high school coach in Florida. He helped found the Huntsville Quarterback Club and was inducted into the Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame in 1990.

October 15, 2014 - Norbert "Nobby" Wirkowski, a former quarterback and later head coach in the Canadian Football League, dies at the age of 88. Wirkowski played college football at Miami of Ohio under then head coach Woody Hayes. He led the team to wins in the 1948 Sun Bowl against Texas Tech and the 1951 Salad Bowl (which today is the Fiesta Bowl) over Arizona State. During his CFL playing days, he played for the Toronto Argonauts, Calgary Stampeders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats, winning a Grey Cup with the Argos in 1952. Wirkowski was also a coach at De La Salle High School in Toronto from 1952-1957. His playing career ended in 1960 with Toronto when he suffered a knee injury during an inter-league exhibition game against the NFL St. Louis Cardinals. Wirkowski went on to be the head coach of the Argonauts from 1962-1964. He also helped bring a football program to York University in Toronto. He was the school's first head coach from 1968-1975 and again from 1988-1989. He also taught physical education at the school and even spent time as the athletic director. He retired from the school in 1992. Wirkowski was inducted into the York University Sports Hall of Fame as well as the Mississauga Hall of Fame and the Miami University Athletics Hall of Fame.

October 31, 2014 - John Forzani, who was a player and owner in the Canadian Football League, dies at the age of 67. Forzani played college football at Utah State. He then played for the Calgary Stampeders from 1971-1976 as an offensive lineman and won a Grey Cup in 1971. After his playing career was over, Forzani opened a sporting goods store and over the year, it grew into a national chain with over 500 stores. He became a part owner of the Stampeders in 2005. Forzani was also on the CFL Board of Governors. His two brothers, Tom and Joe, also played for Calgary as well as his nephew, Johnny.

November 9, 2014 – Orlando Thomas, who was a safety in the NFL, dies from ALS at the age of 42. Thomas played college football at Louisiana-Lafayette and was drafted in the second round of the 1995 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He led the league with nine interceptions in his rookie season. He played in 98 games for the Vikings from 1995-2001 and had been battling ALS since 2007.

November 9, 2014 – Fred “Scooter” Doty, who played in the Canadian Football League, dies at the age of 90. Doty played college football at the University of Toronto. He played quarterback for the Toronto Argonauts from 1945-1949 and won Grey Cup championships in 1945 and 1947. Doty was just five-foot, six-inches tall and weighed 140 pounds.

December 10, 2014 - Don E. Dufek, who played college football at Michigan, dies at the age of 85. Dufek played fullback for the Wolverines from 1948-1950. He was named the MVP of the 1951 Rose Bowl, a win over California, 14-6. He had 113 yards rushing in 23 carries in the game and scored both of the teams’ touchdowns in the fourth quarter. He also caught five passes for 61 yards. Dufek went on to be an assistant coach at Michigan as well as being the athletic director at Grand Valley State University and Kent State University. He was inducted into the University of Michigan Hall of Honor in 2006.

December 14, 2014 - Fred "Fuzzy" Thurston, a former offensive guard in the NFL, dies at the age of 80. Thurston played college football at Valparaiso University. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 1956 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles, but never made the team. He spent some time in the military after that. In 1958, he signed with the Baltimore Colts and played in their final four regular season games. Thurston is best known as a member of the Green Bay Packers from 1959-1967. He won five league titles with the Packers including the first two Super Bowls. After retiring from football, he owned a popular chain of restaurants in Wisconsin called The Left Guard. He was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame in 1975.

(Obituary) December 19, 2014 - "Tricky" Dick Thornton, a two-way player in the Canadian Football League, dies of lung cancer at the age of 75. Thornton played college football at Northwestern where he was a quarterback, safety and also played on special teams. He was selected in the 1961 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns as well as the Dallas Texans of the American Football League the same year. However, he decided to sign with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL. He played in Winnipeg from 1961-1966 and won two Grey Cups in 1961 and 1962. He also played for the Toronto Argonauts from 1967-1971. Thornton played wide receiver as well as defensive back in the CFL. He finished his playing career with the Memphis Southmen of the World Football League in 1974. Thornton was inducted into the Blue Bombers Hall of Fame in 1988.


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