Thursday, July 07, 2011

Farewell to a Gridiron Legend

Syracuse Football and NFL Legend John Mackey passed away yesterday at the age of 69. Mackey had suffered from dementia the past few years, the probable result of years of contact in football (ten in the NFL, four in college).

Mackey revolutionized the tight end position in the NFL by making the position a legitimate receiving threat. He was not only a possession receiver with the ability to catch the short pass over the middle, but with his size and speed, he was a deep threat. In Super Bowl V, Mackey caught a deflected pass from Johnny Unitas and then went 75 yards for a touchdown. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1992.

Mackey would later be the president of the NFL’s Player Association, and spearheaded changes that would occur after the NFL/AFL merger.

Mackey was a multi-sport star at Syracuse. Besides staring in football, Mackey was also a track and field star. He also spent one winter helping the Orangemen Basketball team. The football stars were always looking for activities in the off season that would help keep them in shape for football, and the 1960-1961 Syracuse basketball team was in need of help. A LOT of help.

That team would finish the season 4-19, but struggled to find scoring and rebounding, outside of senior star Pete Chudy. Ernie Davis, who was a star basketball player in high school joined the squad to help out down the stretch. Mackey decided to join Davis and fellow football star Don King in the endeavor.

Davis would quickly adapt, and showed promise with 10.2 points and 9.2 rebounds a game (including 18 rebounds versus Canisius). King provided some scoring off the bench with 5.9 ppg. And John Mackey provided some scoring and rebounding in his limited playing time (only 6 games) with 4.7 points and 4.7 rebounds.

From all accounts, John Mackey was a classy individual and well respected. He was a Syracuse Letterwinner of Disctinction in 1986. My condolences to his family and friends.

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