Readmikenow likes sports, both professional and amateur. He especially likes sports stories of courage and overcoming adversity.
George Blanda: Quarterback, Kicker, AFL/NFL Legend
George Fredrick Blanda was born on Sept. 17, 1927, to a Slovakian coal miner from the Pittsburgh area. He played quarterback and kicker for Bear Bryant at Kentucky and the coach supposedly told the Bears that Blanda would never make it in the NFL. Old George proved him wrong with a 26-year career in both the AFL and NFL that secured his status as a professional football legend.
In fact, Blanda retired in 1975 as the NFL's all-time leading scorer with 2002 points, consisting of 335 field goals, 943 extra points, and nine rushing touchdowns. His 26 seasons is still the league record, he remains the oldest person to play in an NFL game (48 years, 109 days), and is one of only two players—fellow kicker John Carney is the other—to play in four different decades (1940s, '50s, '60s, and '70s).
Kentucky Wildcats: 1945-48
George Blanda played quarterback and kicker at the University of Kentucky. His head coach was Bear Bryant, then in his second year coaching the Wildcats, having come over from Maryland. Bryant would leave Kentucky for Texas A&M a few years later, ultimately landing at Alabama, where he was a coaching legend and with whom he is often associated.
Blanda was the starting quarterback for Kentucky during his last two years (1947-48). He had a 49.6 completion percentage, passed for 1,451 yards, and 12 touchdowns.
Chicago Bears: 1949-58
When Blanda graduated from Kentucky, he believed his days of playing football were over, but in 1949, the Bears drafted him in the 12th round. There were some contract negotiations, and Blanda ended up signing a contract worth $6,000 that included a $600 bonus. Blanda was signed as a third-string quarterback. He was behind Johnny Lujack as well as future Hall of Fame quarterback Sid Luckman.
Blanda showed his ability to be a versatile player for George Halas' Bears; he even played linebacker when needed. He was upset when he received no raises after watching other players around him get them. In 1952, he was given a salary raise to $11,600. The next year, Blanda became Chicago's starting quarterback.
In 1953, he led the NFL in passing attempts and completions. Blanda threw for 15 touchdowns in eight games. He was injured the next season and lost his starting quarterback position. It was clear to him the Bears would only use him as a kicker and not as a quarterback. Blanda's playing time decreased, and he quit playing professional football in 1959.
Houston Oilers: 1960-66
Blanda's retirement from professional football didn't last long. In 1960, he was offered a contract and signed with the Oilers. In 1961, he set a record in a game against the Titans. Blanda threw seven touchdown passes in one game—a record held by only three other quarterbacks. He threw for four or more touchdowns in a single game thirteen times while he was with Houston.
In 1964, during a game against the Bills, Blanda completed 68 passes. This record stood until 1994 when the Patriots' Drew Bledsoe completed 70 passes in a single game that went into overtime. He also continued to be used as a kicker, averaging 56.4 percent.
Blanda was the AFL's leading passer and scorer for every season he played for the Oilers. He was instrumental in Houston winning the AFL championship in the 1960–61 season. He passed for over 300 yards and three touchdowns during the championship game.
Oakland Raiders: 1967-75
Blanda was traded to the Raiders in 1967 when he was 39 years old. Between the 1967 and '71 seasons, he kicked 201 consecutive extra points. In 1968, he was part of the Oakland's AFL championship team. They eventually went on to lose Super Bowl II to the Packers 33–14.
Blanda's Most Memorable Season: 1970
Blanda's most memorable season was with the Raiders in 1970. Oakland's starting quarterback was Daryl Lamonica, who kept getting injured. At 43, Blanda was able to take over at quarterback back and play five incredible games.
During the first game, Blanda came off the bench and threw three touchdowns for a victory against the Steelers. The next week, with only three seconds left in the game, he kicked a 48-yard field goal against the Chiefs to get a 17–17 tie. Blanda came off the bench and threw for a touchdown to tie the Browns with only 1:34 left. Blanda then kicked a 53-yard field goal with three seconds left to get a 23–20 victory.
The next game was against the Broncos. Blanda replaced Lamonica in the fourth quarter. He connected with wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff with 2:28 remaining in the game for a 24–19 victory. The next week, Blanda kicked a 16-yard field goal with only a few seconds left to defeat the Chargers 20–17.
The Raiders then went on to play the Colts in the AFC title game. Blanda again came off the bench to relieve an injured Lamonica. He completed 17 of 32 passes for 217 yards. He threw for two touchdowns and kicked a 48-yard field goal as well as two extra points. The Raiders lost the game, but Blanda was the oldest quarterback to play in an NFL championship game.
Retirement and Hall of Fame Induction: 1981
Blanda played with the Raiders for nine seasons and retired one month before his 49th birthday. Blanda had a career that spanned 26 years of playing professional football. During that time, he threw for over 26,900 yards. He completed 1,911 of 4,007 pass attempts and threw for 236 touchdowns. Blanda rushed for 344 yards and had nine rushing touchdowns. He kicked 335 field goals and 943 extra points.
Blanda scored a franchise-high of 863 points with the Raiders. He also was the first player to ever score over 500 points for three different teams. Blanda was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1981—the first year he was eligible to be inducted. He was also part of the AFL-NFL 25-year All-Star team.
In 1985, Blanda's hometown of Youngwood, Pennsylvania, renamed U.S. Route 119 in his honor. It is now known as George Blanda Boulevard. Blanda passed away on Sept. 27, 2010.
Readmikenow (author) on May 29, 2019:
Robert, thanks for stopping by and commenting.
Robert Levine from Brookline, Massachusetts on May 29, 2019:
Yes, that was when they beat the Cowboys in Super Bowl V, "the worst Super Bowl every played"--the victorious Colts committed seven turnovers.
Readmikenow (author) on May 23, 2019:
Robert, thanks for stopping by and reading about George Blanda. I think the Colts won Superbowl that year.
Robert Levine from Brookline, Massachusetts on May 23, 2019:
When Blanda entered that 1970 AFC Championship against Johnny Unitas's Colts, the two offenses were being led by men who between them had 38 years--over a third of a century--of professional football experience.
Readmikenow (author) on December 13, 2018:
BB thanks for sharing! That is a great story.
BB on December 13, 2018:
My dad played against Blanda from 1960-63, when Blanda played for Houston. Dad played first for the Dallas Texans, then the Broncos. He was amazed at the lengths Blanda's teammates would go to protect him - more like the NHL than the NFL (AFL, back then). My dad's role was the point of the wedge on kickoffs. His job was to take out the kicker. He did... and in the plays that followed, he ended up with a hairline fracture in his femur. Payback, I guess. Lesson learned, too.
They became friends years later, when Blanda went to the Raiders. Al Davis and Al Locasalle were friends of my dad's, and back then players, coaches and wives would all hang out together after games for drinks and dinner. Blanda and my dad shared some Pittsburgh heritage, so the friendship blossomed from there.
Pretty cool stories back then.
Readmikenow (author) on November 18, 2018:
Glenn, thanks for sharing. I agree, it was an NFL season to remember.
Glenn D'Amico on November 17, 2018:
I remember that crazy 1970 season, my whole family were Raider fans on the Oregon coast . We sceamed ourselves hoarse that year, and the cops even came to the house believing there was a fight going on!
Readmikenow (author) on December 08, 2016:
Kosmo, thanks. I agree with you. George Blanda played for far less money but did far more. Can you imagine a quarterback today being able to pass to tie a game and then kick a game winning field goal? It just wouldn't happen. He was an inspiration.
Kelley Marks from Sacramento, California on December 07, 2016:
I remember George Blanda, a true ironman of the NFL. They don't make guys like him anymore. Later!
Readmikenow (author) on December 03, 2016:
Larry thanks. I find George Blanda's career inspiring. I don't think we'll have too many players today last 26 seasons. I doubt any could be a quarterback and a kicker and succeed at his level.
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on December 01, 2016:
More than any other attribute, Blanda's career was defined by toughness.