George Blanda

George Blanda

Infobox NFLretired

caption=George Blanda was elected into the American Football League Hall of Fame
position=Quarterback / Kicker
birthdate=birth date and age|1927|9|17
Youngwood, Pennsylvania
* Chicago Bears (1949)
* Baltimore Colts (1950)
* Chicago Bears (1950-1958)
* Houston Oilers (1960-1966)
* Oakland Raiders (1967-1975)
stat3label=QB Rating
* 4x Pro Bowl selection (1961, 1962, 1963, 1967)
* 7x All-Pro selection (1961, 1962, 1963, 1966, 1967, 1970, 1973)
* 1970 Bert Bell Award
* AFL All-Time Team
* 2x AFL leader in passing yards (1961, 1963)
* Led AFL in passing TDs (1961)

George "The Fossil" Blanda (born September 17 1927, Youngwood, Pennsylvania) is a former American football placekicker and quarterback. The son of a 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.

Collegiate career

Blanda was a quarterback and kicker at the University of Kentucky. Bear Bryant, who later won fame and set countless records at Texas A&M and Alabama, arrived in his sophomore year, following a 1-9 season. The Wildcats lost three games in the bug went to of the next three years.

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 (.496 percentage), 1,451 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions.

Professional career

Chicago Bears

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.

In an episode of the TV series "Happy Days", set in the 1950s, Richie Cunningham (played by Ron Howard) and Ralph Malph (Donny Most) watch a televised game in which Blanda and the Bears struggle. Ralph says that Blanda is finished in football. Richie says that Blanda has a few more years left. The joke was that Blanda, 20 years later at the time of the show's filming, was still playing.

Houston Oilers

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 or AFL quarterback in a single season, and 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 New York Titans.

From 1963-1965, 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."

Oakland Raiders

During that first season, 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.

The Raiders went on to compete in Super Bowl II, 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.

In 1970, Blanda was released during the preseason, but bounced back to establish his 21st professional season as one of the more dramatic comebacks in sports history. Beginning with the October 25 game at Pittsburgh, Blanda put together five straight clutch performances.

Against the Steelers, Blanda threw for two 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. Repeating the thrilling finish on November 8, Blanda once again came off the bench to throw for a pass to tie the Cleveland Browns with 1:34 remaining, then kicked a 53-yard field goal as time expired for the 23-20 win. 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 incredible 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 and had a superb performance, 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

Blanda's eye-opening achievements resulted in his winning the Bert Bell Award. Chiefs' owner Lamar Hunt quipped, "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 , where he kicked a 41-yard field goal and made one extra point as the Raiders lost to the Steelers 16-10. He was released by the Raiders on August 25 1976.

Records and honors

Blanda finished his 26 NFL 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 NFL records:

* Passing TD's in a game: 7 (Tied with 4 others) November 19, 1961 vs. New York Titans [ESPN Sports Almanac 2006, page 273. Sports Almanac, Inc. 2005. Record has not been exceeded since date of reference publication.]
* Most seasons played: 26 (1949-58, 1960-75)
* Most seasons scoring a point: 26
* Only player 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: age in years and days|1927|9|17|1976|1|4
* First player ever to score over 2,000 points
* Oldest quarterback to start a title game
* Fewest receiving yards in a career: -16
* 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. 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 player.

In 1999, he was ranked number 98 on "The Sporting News"' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.

ee also

*Other American Football League Players
*Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame

External links

*"Pro Football Hall of Fame:" [ Member profile]
* [ Blanda's 1965 Topps football card]
* [ The Pennsylvania Football News All-Century Team]
* [ Full roster of all American Football League players 1960 - 1969]
* [ Gallery of George Blanda football cards]

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