Raiders great George Blanda dies

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:54 PM ET

George Blanda, who gave hope to every 40-plus would-be athlete of his generation and became one of the NFL’s most extraordinary stars, has died. He was 83.

Blanda played 26 seasons of pro football — longer than any other player in history — as a quarterback and placekicker. A star kicker, quarterback and linebacker at Kentucky, Blanda signed with the Bears in 1949 when George Halas offered him a $6,000 contract and a $600 bonus. “What could I do?” Blanda, who was the son of a coal miner, said, “That’s an awful lot of money for a 21 year-old kid who’s never had anything in his life.”

He would be to football what Gordie Howe is to hockey — one of the toughest, most distinctive players in his sport.

He won the league’s most valuable player award in in 1970 at the age of 43. Cut at the beginning of the 1970 season — and a dozen years after he first retired — Blanda joined the Oakland Raiders. In a five-week run he led the team to come-from-behind victories by replacing quarterback Daryle LaMonica or kicking a winning or tying field goal. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Time, and Newsweek. He was one of the first athletes featured on late-night TV talk shows and was eventually named to the all-time AFL team.

He finally retired for good, at age 48, in 1976.


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