Written by: Mike in DA
Date posted: 9/28/2010
|George Blanda - Houston Oilers' First Star|
For those of you who don’t know George Blanda from George Carlin, George Washington, Boy George, George Hamilton, George Armstrong Custer, George Halas, George Lucas, George Patton, George Bernard Shaw, Eddie George, Gladys George, Phyllis George, Christopher George, or Gorgeous George, he was a former collegiate and pro football quarterback and placekicker.
Blanda played 26 seasons of pro football, the most in the sport's history, and had scored more points than anyone in history at the time of his retirement from the NFL in August 1976. He was married in 1949 to his college girlfriend, Betty Harris, and they had 11 kids. They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary just last December.
Blanda, son of a Pittsburgh coal miner, was a quarterback and kicker at the University of Kentucky when Bear Bryant (pictured) coached there and graduated from UK in 1949. Blanda was drafted and signed by the Chicago Bears in 1949. While primarily used as a quarterback and placekicker, Blanda also played some linebacker. In 1953, Blanda became the Bears' #1 QB, but an injury the following year ended his first-string status. For the next four years, he was used mostly as a kicker.
Blanda retired after the 1958 NFL season because Bears' coach, George Halas (pictured), wanted to use him only as a kicker, but he returned in 1960 when the AFL (American Football League for the acronym-challenged) came into existence. He signed with the Houston Oilers as both a quarterback and kicker.
I remember when he was referred to as one of the NFL-rejects that was signed by the new AFL, but he led the Oilers to the first two league titles in AFL history in 1960 and 1961. Those are the only pro-football championships that the city of Houston has seen in 50 years and don’t be surprised if it’s another 50 years before it sees another one.
During 1961, Blanda 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 (pictured) 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.
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 career seemed over when he was released by the Oilers in March 1967. However, the Oakland Raiders signed him that July, seeing his potential as a contributing backup passer to Daryle "The Mad Bomber" Lamonica and as a dependable kicker.
During that 1967 season, his kicking helped him lead the AFL in scoring with 116 points. The Raiders went on to play in Super Bowl II (a 33-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers), but the following two seasons ended in heartbreak as they lost the final two AFL Championship games in the 10-year history of the league to the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs, respectively. Both of those teams went on to win the Super Bowl.
In 1970, Blanda was released during the preseason, but came back for his 21st professional season in one of the most dramatic comebacks in sports history at the age of 42. Beginning with the October 25 game vs. Pittsburgh, Blanda put together five straight clutch performances that helped to make him a legend:
10/25 - Against the Steelers, Blanda threw for three touchdowns in relief of an injured Daryle Lamonica, in a 31-14 home win.
11/1 – His 48-yard field goal with three seconds remaining salvaged a 17-17 tie with the Chiefs in Kansas City.
11/8 - Blanda once again came off the bench to throw for a TD 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 home win.
11/15 - Blanda replaced Lamonica in the fourth quarter and connected with Fred Biletnikoff on a TD pass with 2:28 left in the game to beat the Denver Broncos, 24-19, on the road.
11/22 - The incredible streak ended when Blanda's 16-yard field goal in the closing seconds defeated the San Diego Chargers, 20-17, at home.
In the AFC title game that year against the Baltimore Colts, Blanda again relieved an injured Lamonica and completed 17 of 32 passes for 217 yards and 2 TDs 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, in a 27-17 loss. Aged 43 at the time, 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.
After his 1970 performance on the field there were some who thought he was the son of the George Blanda who played for the Oilers a decade earlier, not realizing he was the same guy. Although he never again played a major role at quarterback for Oakland, 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.
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 (52.6%) field goals, and 943 of 959 extra points, giving him 2,002 total points.
Some of his records are:
- Passing TD's in a game: 7 (tied with 4 others) 11/19/61 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) - Jeff Feagles being the other
- 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 11/19/61) until 1994 when Drew Bledsoe had 70
- Oldest person to play in an NFL game: 48 years, 109 days
- 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
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. Of course, Morten Anderson was solely a placekicker while Blanda played QB (and linebacker early in his career).
Blanda is currently third in career points scored, ranking behind the aforementioned Andersen and fellow placekicker Gary Anderson. It should be noted that this category doesn't count the many passing touchdowns that Blanda threw, only his kicks and his nine rushing touchdowns. Also, both of the aforementioned players to surpass Blanda's total were born outside the United States, thus Blanda continues to hold the record for most career points scored by an American-born pro football player.
U.S. Route 119 in Blanda's birthplace 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 fantasy football draft pick of the GOPPPL (Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League) when the game was first created in 1962.
REST IN PEACE - #16
MIKE IN DA
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