Monday, September 27, George Blanda died at the age of 83 after a brief illness. George Blanda played pro football for four decades, from 1949-1975, longer than any other pro football player did. He retired after 26 seasons, one month before his 49th birthday.
During his career, Blanda played with four pro football teams, as a quarterback and kicker. His first ten seasons were with the Chicago Bears except for one game he played with the Baltimore Colts in 1950. The next seven seasons he played with the Houston Oilers. The Oakland Raiders were his final team. He played with them for the last nine years of his career.
Blanda had a short-lived retirement early in his career, in 1959, when he was only 31. He was playing with the Chicago Bears at the time, and they wanted to switch him from the quarterback position to being a full-time kicker. After a short break, Blanda returned to the game playing with the AFL’s Houston Oilers.
While playing seven seasons with the Oilers, Blanda threw for 19,149 yards and 165 touchdowns. In 1961, he was named the AFL Player of the Year. In addition to holding a single-game passing record in the AFL, he was also named the league’s all time kicker.
In 1967, the Oilers were willing to let Blanda go, thinking his career was almost finished. The Oakland Raiders picked him up as a backup quarterback and kicker, extending his career nine more seasons. In 1970, a 43-year-old Blanda had an amazing five-game stretch that put him on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Newsweek, and Time. The first week he stepped in for injured quarterback Daryle Lamonica and threw three touchdown passes, defeating Pittsburgh 31-14. The excitement continued into the following week when he kicked a 48-yard field goal in the final seconds of the game to tie Kansas City 17-17. In the third game, with 1:34 left in the game, Blanda threw the tying touchdown pass. He then kicked a 52-yard field goal to beat Cleveland 23-20. Game four had him throwing a 20-yard touchdown pass for a 24-19 victory over Denver. In the fifth game of the exciting stretch, Blanda kicked a 16-yard field goal in the final seconds of a game against San Diego for a 20-17 victory.
When he retired in 1975, Blanda had played in 340 professional football games. That was the record at the time. He also held the pro scoring record with 2,002 points. In 1981, Blanda was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. After retiring, Blanda spent time giving motivational speeches, playing golf, and following horseracing.