George Frederick Blanda (September 17, 1927 – September 27, 2010) was an American football quarterback
who played professionally in the American Football League
(AFL) and National Football League
(NFL). Blanda 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 August 1976
as the oldest player to ever play at the age of 48.
He was one of only three players to play in four different decades (Jeff Feagles
who played from 1988-2009, and John Carney
who played from 1988–2010, are the others), and he holds the record for most extra points made (943) and attempted (959).
During his career, he played under head coaches Bear Bryant
, George Halas
, Clem Crowe, Lou Rymkus
, Wally Lemm
, Pop Ivy
, Sammy Baugh
, Hugh Taylor
and John Madden
Blanda was a quarterback and kicker at Kentucky
from 1945-1948. Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant
, who later won fame and set countless records at Southeastern Conference
, arrived in his sophomore year, following a 1–9 season in 1945. The Wildcats only lost three games in each of the next three years.
Blanda was the starting quarterback his last two seasons at Kentucky (1947–1948), compiling 120 completions in 242 passes (49.6 percent completions), 1,451 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Blanda was signed by the Chicago Bears
for $600 in 1949
, an amount owner George Halas
demanded back when he made the team, as Blanda was given a lucrative contract for much more money. While primarily used as a quarterback
, Blanda also saw time on the defensive side of the ball at linebacker
. It was not until 1953
that Blanda emerged as the Bears' top quarterback, 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.
Blanda retired after the 1958 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/AFL quarterback in a single season, until matched by Y. A. Tittle of the NFL New York Giants two years later in . Blanda's and Tittle's mark remained the record until surpassed by Dan Marino's 48 touchdown passes in 1984. Blanda's 42 interceptions thrown 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 eventual champion Buffalo Bills.
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 AFL All-Star, 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 remained 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."
In 1967, Blanda's first season with the Raiders, 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. Three weeks later, the Raiders met the Oilers again in the AFL Championship Game and won 40–7.
The Raiders went on to compete in Super Bowl II, but lost the final two AFL Championship games in the ten-year history of the league.
In 1970, Blanda was released during the exhibition season, but bounced back to establish his 21st professional season. During that season, Blanda, at age 43, had a remarkable five-game run. Against the Steelers, Blanda threw for three 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. On November 8, he again came off the bench to throw a touchdown 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 win. Immediately after the winning field goal, Raiders radio announcer Bill King excitedly declared, "George Blanda has just been elected King of the World!" 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 following week, 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, 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, and was one of the few remaining straight-ahead kickers in the NFL.
Blanda's achievements resulted in his winning the Bert Bell Award. Chiefs' owner Lamar Hunt said, "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 served as the Raiders' kicker for five more seasons. Blanda was also named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year, being the first ever professional football player to earn the award.
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, in which he kicked a 41-yard field goal and made one extra point as the Raiders lost to the Steelers 16–10. He was released during training camp in late August 1976, succeeded at kicker by rookie Fred Steinfort, [ but pulled for the team as the Raiders went on to win the NFL title that season in Super Bowl XI.] [ (Steinfort was injured in mid-season,] and was replaced by 35-year-old veteran Errol Mann.)
Career regular season statistics
Records and honors
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 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 professional football records:
* Passing touchdowns in a game: 7 (Tied with 7 others) November 19, 1961 vs. New York Titans
* Most seasons played: 26 (1949–58, 1960–75)
* Most seasons scoring a point: 26
* One of three players to play in 4 different decades (he played in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s) (along with John Carney, who played in the 80s, 90s, 2000s, and 2010s and Tom Brady, who played in the 90s, 2000s, 2010s, and 2020s)
* 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. Buffalo Bills on January 11, 1964) until 1994 when Drew Bledsoe had 70
* Oldest player to play in an NFL game:
* First player ever to score over 2,000 points
* Oldest quarterback to start a title game - Broken by Tom Brady
* Most total points accounted for (including touchdown passes) in a career: 3,418 (not an official stat) - broken by Drew Brees and Tom Brady
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 as well as the record for most consecutive games played
until September 26, 1976 by defensive end Jim Marshall. He still holds the record for most games played by an AFL/NFL player who was not exclusively a kicker or punter. His 114 postseason points were an NFL record at the time of his retirement.
Blanda broke Lou Groza's career scoring record in 1971, a record he held until 2000 when it was broken by Gary Anderson. Blanda's 2,002 total points are still good for 7th on the all-time scoring list.
U.S. Route 119 in Blanda's hometown of Youngwood, Pennsylvania 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 recorded fantasy football draft pick when the game was first created in 1962 by The Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League.
Blanda was the son of a Slovak-born Pittsburgh-area coal miner. He was married to Betty Harris from December 17, 1949 until his death on September 27, 2010, ten days after his 83rd birthday. They had two children. Harris-Blanda survives him, besides the children.
According to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Blanda died after a "short illness" on September 27, 2010.
He was 83 years old. A moment of silence was held in Blanda's honor prior to the start of the September 27, 2010 game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears on ''Monday Night Football'', from Soldier Field.
The 1970s TV series ''Happy Days'' was set in 1950s Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the Season 3 episode "Football Frolics", first aired January 20, 1976, Richie Cunningham (played by Ron Howard) and Ralph Malph (Donny Most) are watching the December 9, 1956, Chicago Bears – Chicago Cardinals televised game. After Ed Brown's pass to Harlon Hill is intercepted by the Cardinals, Richie wants "the other quarterback" put in. Ralph says that the other quarterback is "washed up. He's old. He's 30. He's got no future." Richie argues back, "George Blanda has two or three good years left." The joke was that Blanda, 19 years after the date depicted in the show, was still playing.
*List of American Football League players
*Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame
*"George Blanda: The Old Man". (1999). In ''ESPN SportsCentury''. Michael MacCambridge, Editor. New York: Hyperion ESPN Books. p. 228.
Blanda's citation in the American Football League Hall of Fame
Category:American Football League All-League players
Category:American Football League All-Star players
Category:American Football League All-Time Team
Category:American Football League Most Valuable Players
Category:American Football League players
Category:American football placekickers
Category:American football quarterbacks
Category:American people of Slovak descent
Category:Baltimore Colts (1947–1950) players
Category:Chicago Bears players
Category:Houston Oilers players
Category:Kentucky Wildcats football players
Category:Oakland Raiders players
Category:People from Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania
Category:Players of American football from Pennsylvania
Category:Sportspeople from the Pittsburgh metropolitan area
Category:Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees