Time caught up with the “grand old man,” when George Frederick Blanda died, at age 83. The “grand old man” tag was an honorary title chronicling a 26 year career, in the National Football League. He retired shortly before his 49th birthday.
Blanda entered the world on September 17, 1927, in Youngstown, Pennsylvania the son of a coal miner, according to the article, “Blanda, George Fredrick.” Little is on record about him until he entered college at the University of Kentucky, in 1945. He played football as a quarterback, and place kicker. He was the Wildcat’s starting quarterback his junior and senior year, along with handling the place kicking chores. His statistics, as the man behind the center, were not impressive, and it surprised him when George Halas, and the Chicago
Bears, drafted him in the 12th round of the 1949 National Football League draft.
Professional Football Career
When he signed, as a back-up quarterback and the place kicker, he received a $600.00 signing bonus, and a $6,000.00 a year salary. In his early years as a professional, he played a little as safety and linebacker, just for the opportunity to have more playing time.
In his fifth year he became the Bear’s starting quarterback, and led the league in completions, and attempts. In 1958 he suffered an injury, and lost his job as starting quarterback. He didn’t want to just place kick, so, in 1959, he retired. However, the new America Football League had its inaugural season in 1960, and the Houston Oilers lured Blanda out of retirement.
As their quarterback, he led the Oilers to the American Football League Championship the first two years of the league. In 1961, he threw for 3,330 yards, 36 touchdowns, and was the league’s Most Valuable Player. At age 37 Houston released him, because they felt he was too old. Blanda, though, was not ready to retire, and signed with the Oakland Raiders, in 1967, as their backup quarterback, and place kicker. As the Raider’s place kicker he led the league in scoring that year.
The 1970 season was unforgettable for Blanda, and football enthusiasts. In a five game stretch, the 43 year old Blanda led Oakland to five consecutive victories, winning each with his arm, or foot. His exploits in those five games earned him the American Football League’s Most Valuable Player award, for 1970. In addition, at age 43 he played in the American Football League’s championship game, earning him the record of the oldest man to play in a football championship game. He retired in 1975.
George Blanda left his mark on professional football. Over his career, he attempted 4,007 passes, for 26,920 yards, and 236 touchdowns. In the 340 games he played, he scored 2,002 points, a record that stood for years. His richly deserved induction into the Hall of Fame came in 1981.
Pennsylvania State University: Blanda, George Frederick: psu.edu