George Blanda as member of the Oakland Raiders, 1967
|Born||September 17, 1927 in Youngwood, Pennsylvania, U.S.|
|Died||September 27, 2010 in Alameda, California, U.S.(aged 83)|
|NFL Draft||1949 / Round: 12 / Pick: 119|
|Stats at NFL.com|
|Stats at DatabaseFootball.com|
|Career highlights and awards|
George Frederick Blanda ("The Grand Old Man") (September 17, 1927 – September 27, 2010) was a collegiate and professional football quarterback and placekicker. The son of a Slovak-born Pittsburgh-area coal miner, Blanda has the distinction of having played 26 seasons of Professional Football, the most in the sport's history, and had scored more points than anyone in history at the time of his retirement. Blanda retired from pro football in 1976. He was one of only three players to play in four different decades, and he holds the record for most extra points kicked. He was married to Betty Harris from December 17, 1949 until his death on September 27, 2010. He had two children.
Blanda was a quarterback and kicker at the University of Kentucky. Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, who later won fame and set countless records at conference rivals Alabama, arrived in his sophomore year, following a 1–9 season. The Wildcats lost three games in each of the next three years.
When, years later on a return to the University of Kentucky, recalling the time he met Bryant, Blanda said: "I thought this must be what God looks like."
Blanda was the starting quarterback his last two seasons at Kentucky (1947–1948), compiling 120 completions in 242 passes (49.6 percentage), 1,451 yards, 12 touchdowns.
Blanda was signed by the Chicago Bears for $600 in 1949, an amount owner George Halas demanded back when he made the team. While primarily used as a quarterback and placekicker, Blanda also saw time on the defensive side of the ball at linebacker. It would not be until 1953 that Blanda would emerge as the Bears' top signal caller, but an injury the following year effectively ended his first-string status. For the next four years, he was used mostly in a kicking capacity. Later commenting on his testy relationship with Halas, Blanda noted, "he was too cheap to even buy me a kicking shoe." Blanda later reflected that by the 1950s the pro game had moved beyond Halas, who seemed to lack the interest he had earlier.
Blanda retired after the 1958 NFL season because of Halas' insistence on only using him as a kicker, but returned in 1960 upon the formation of the American Football League. He signed with the Houston Oilers as both a quarterback and kicker. He was derided by the sports media as an "NFL Reject", but he went on to lead the Oilers to the first two league titles in AFL history, and he was the All-AFL quarterback and won AFL Player of the Year honors in 1961. During that season, he led the AFL in passing yards (3,330) and touchdown passes (36). His 36 touchdown passes in 1961 were the most ever thrown by any NFL/AFL quarterback in a single season, until matched by Y.A. Tittle of the NFL New York Giants just two years later in 1963. Blanda's and Tittle's mark would remain the record until surpassed by Dan Marino's 48 touchdown passes in 1984. His 42 interceptions in 1962 is a record that still stands.
During 1962, he had two 400-yard passing days for the Oilers: a 464-yard effort against the Buffalo Bills on October 29, with four touchdown passes (winning 28–16); and 418 yards three weeks later against the Titans of New York, this time with seven touchdown passes in a 49–13 victory. Blanda passed for 36 touchdowns that season. On 13 occasions, he connected on four or more touchdown passes during a game, and on November 1, 1964, unleashed 68 passes for Houston against the Buffalo Bills.
From 1963 to 1965, Blanda led the AFL in passing attempts and completions, and ranked in the top ten for attempts, completions, yards and touchdowns during seven consecutive seasons. A four-time member of the American Football League All-Star team, Blanda's already-long career seemed over when he was released by the Oilers on March 18, 1967. However, the Oakland Raiders signed him that July, seeing his potential as a contributing backup passer and a dependable kicker.
In later years, Blanda would remain a strong supporter of AFL heritage, saying: "That first year, the Houston Oilers or Los Angeles Chargers (24–16 losers to the Oilers in the title game) could have beaten the NFL champion (Philadelphia) in a Super Bowl." Blanda said further: "I think the AFL was capable of beating the NFL in a Super Bowl game as far back as 1960 or '61. I just regret we didn't get the chance to prove it."
In 1967, during Blanda's first season with the Raiders, his kicking skills helped him lead the AFL in scoring with 116 points. In two instances, his leg helped play a role in Raider victories: a trio of field goals helped upset the defending league champion Kansas City Chiefs on October 1; in the closing weeks of the regular season, Blanda booted four field goals behind a hostile Houston crowd in a 19–7 victory over his former team, the Oilers, helping gain a measure of revenge.
In 1970, Blanda was released during the exhibition season, but bounced back to establish his 21st professional season. That season (1970) Blanda, at age 43, had a remarkable five-game run. Against the Steelers, Blanda threw for three touchdowns in relief of an injured Daryle Lamonica. One week later, his 48-yard field goal with three seconds remaining salvaged a 17–17 tie with the Kansas City Chiefs. On November 8, Blanda once again came off the bench to throw for a touchdown pass to tie the Cleveland Browns with 1:34 remaining, then kicked a 53-yard field goal with 0:03 left for the 23–20 win. Immediately after the winning field goal, Raiders radio announcer Bill King excitedly declared, "George Blanda has just been elected King of the World!" In the team's next game, Blanda replaced Lamonica in the fourth quarter and connected with Fred Biletnikoff on a touchdown pass with 2:28 left in the game to defeat the Denver Broncos, 24–19. The streak concluded one week later when Blanda's 16-yard field goal in the closing seconds defeated the San Diego Chargers, 20–17.
In the AFC title game against the Baltimore Colts, Blanda again relieved an injured Lamonica, completing 17 of 32 passes for 217 yards and 2 touchdowns while also kicking a 48-yard field goal and two extra points, keeping the Raiders in the game until the final quarter, when he was intercepted twice. Aged 43, he became the oldest quarterback ever to play in a championship game, and was one of the few remaining straight-ahead kickers in the NFL.
Blanda's achievements resulted in his winning the Bert Bell Award. Chiefs' owner Lamar Hunt said, "Why, this George Blanda is as good as his father, who used to play for Houston." Although he never again played a major role at quarterback, Blanda would serve as the Raiders' kicker for five more seasons.
He played in his last game at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium on January 4, 1976, at age 48, in the 1975 AFC Championship Game, where he kicked a 41-yard field goal and made one extra point as the Raiders lost to the Steelers 16-10.
Records and honors
Blanda finished his 26 professional football seasons having completed 1,911 of 4,007 pass attempts for 26,920 yards and 236 touchdowns. Blanda also held the NFL record for most interceptions thrown with 277, until Brett Favre broke it on October 14, 2007. He rushed for 344 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground, kicked 335 of 641 field goals, and 943 of 959 extra points, giving him 2,002 total points. Additional stats include 1 interception, 2 kickoff returns for 19 yards, 22 punts for 809 yards, and 23 fumble recoveries.
Blanda holds the following professional football records:
- Passing TDs in a game: 7 (Tied with 4 others) November 19, 1961 vs. New York Titans
- Most seasons played: 26 (1949–58, 1960–75)
- Most seasons scoring a point: 26
- One of two players to play in 4 different decades: (40s, 50s, 60s, 70s)
- Most PATs made (943) and attempted (959)
- Most interceptions thrown, single season: 42 (1962)
- Held record of most pass attempts in a single game: 68 (37 completions, vs. New York Titans on 11/1/1961) until 1994 when Drew Bledsoe had 70
- Oldest person to play in an NFL game: 48 years, 109 days (January 4, 1976 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, AFC Championship)
- First player ever to score over 2,000 points
- Oldest quarterback to start a title game
- Most total points accounted for (including TD passes) in a career: 3,418 (not an official stat)
He is the placekicker on the All-Time All-AFL Team, and was one of only 20 players to play all ten years of the AFL, as well as one of only three who were in every AFL game their teams played. Blanda was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981, his first year of eligibility, and also was inducted into the University of Kentucky Hall of Fame.
Blanda held the record for most professional football games played with 340 until September 26, 2004, when it was broken by another placekicker, Morten Andersen.
U.S. Route 119 in Blanda's hometown of Youngwood, PA was renamed George Blanda Boulevard in 1985.
In 1999, Blanda was ranked number 98 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.
Blanda was the first ever recorded fantasy football draft pick when the game was first created in 1962 by the The Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League.
According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Blanda died after a "short illness" on September 27, 2010. He was 83 years old. A moment of silence was held in Blanda's honor prior to the start of the September 27, 2010 game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, from Soldier Field.
References in popular culture
The 1970s TV series Happy Days is set in 1950s Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the Season 3 episode "Football Frolics," Richie Cunningham (played by Ron Howard) and Ralph Malph (Donny Most) are watching the November 9, 1956, Chicago Bears - Chicago Cardinals televised game. After Ed Brown's pass to Harlon Hill is intercepted by the Cardinals, Richie wants "the other quarterback" put in. Ralph says that quarterback is "washed up. He's old. He's 30. He's got no future." Richie argues back, "George Blanda has two or three good years left." The joke was that Blanda, 20 years later at the time of the show's filming, was still playing.
- Other American Football League Players
- Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame
- Richardson, Bill (September 27, 2010). Ageless wonder George Blanda dies. Kansas City Star. Retrieved on 28 September 2010. [dead link]
- "George Blanda, Hall of Fame Football Player, Dies at 83", September 27, 2010. Retrieved on September 28, 2010.
- Ross, George. "Blanda's miracle season: Browns beaten by 52-yard field goal from `King of the World'", The Oakland Tribune, September 27, 2010. Retrieved on September 28, 2010.
- ESPN Sports Almanac 2006, page 273. Sports Almanac, Inc. 2005. Record has not been exceeded since date of reference publication.
- Dickey, Glenn. "Fantasy Football: Craze's roots go back to Oakland", The San Francisco Chronicle, January 8, 2011.
- "Hall of Famer’s longevity was legendary", Salt Lake Tribune, September 28, 2010
- Raiders Hall of Fame QB George Blanda dies at 83. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (September 27, 2010). Retrieved on 28 September 2010.
- "George Blanda: The Old Man". (1999). In ESPN SportsCentury. Michael MacCambridge, Editor. New York: Hyperion ESPN Books. p. 228.