Football Players

George Blanda Oldest NFL Player



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Not only does George Blanda hold the record for being the oldest player to ever play in the NFL, but he also holds other records with the most memorable being the player with the longest career in the NFL.

Very fitting and honorable that George Fredrick Blanda was a Youngwood Pennsylvania native, born September 17, 1927 and is still alive to this day. His father is said to have worked in the coal mines, but other than that, little is said about this man's heritage and history.

George began his career at the University of Kentucky, in 1945, where he was felt honored to meet Bear Bryant who later went on to fame at Texas A&M and Alabama. At Kentucky, Blanda was both a kicker and a quarterback, very common during this era of football. During the last two years at the university, Blanda was promoted to starting quarterback and ended his career at Kentucky with 120 completions out of 242 attempts, totaling 1,451 yards, with 12 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.

In 1949, Blanda was immediately signed to the Chicago Bears squad and implemented as quarterback and placekicker, much as he had been doing in his college career. However, at the Bear he also was used as a linebacker when needed, during which he once intercepted a ball, returning it for 13 yards. At the beginning of 1953, Blanda earned the spot of starting quarterback, however he relinquished it the following year due to some injuries. After this he was only used as a kicker. Because of this and other happenings, the tension between Blanda and George Halas, the Bears owner, grew. At one point, Blanda even remarked, "he was too cheap to even buy me a kicking shoe."

Blanda decided to retire at the end of the 1958 season as he felt his position as a kicker was not justifying of his skills as he thought possible. However, once the American Football League was formed in 1960, Blanda signed with the Houston Oilers as their kicker/quarterback. Although many thought and commented on him as being a "NFL reject", Blanda led the Oilers to two league titles, the first in AFL history, and won Player of the Year honors in 1961. It was during 1961 he set records that stood for two decades including most touchdown passes in a single season (36) that was broken by Marino and Manning decades later.

The glorious career seemed over when the Oilers released him in 1967, but the Oakland Raiders (also of the AFL) snapped him up, impressed with both his kicking and passing abilities. His reliability was just what they needed. He led the league that year in scoring points with 116, mainly from his kicking. With this team, he competed in Super Bowl II, but the following years ended with heartbreak by losing the final AFL Championships.

During the offseason, he was released from his contract, but Blanda fought back and was reinstated on the team, earning his spot with dramatic performances. Because of his performances, the Raiders reached the AFC title game where they lost by a slim margin to the Baltimore Colts. He was 43 at the time, and was the oldest quarterback to play in a championship game. After this, he returned to play five more seasons, but only as the starting kicker.

His final game was at Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Stadium, where on January 4, 1976 he kicked a 41 yard field goal and made an extra point at the age of 48. After this season, he was released from the team.

His stats include:
-1 interception
-2 Kickoff returns for a total of 19 yards
-22 punts for a total of 809 yards
-23 fumble recoveries

The following NFL Records are held by Blanda:

-Most passing TD's in a game (7) tied with 4 others
-Most seasons played (26)
-Most seasons scoring a point (26)
-Only player to play in 4 different decades
-Most PAT's made (943) and attempted (959)
- Most interceptions thrown in a single season (42)
-Oldest person to play in an NFL game (48 years, 110 days)
-First play to score over 2,000 points
-Oldest quarterback to start a title game
-Fewest receiving yards in a career (-16)
-Most points in a career (including college, 3,418)
-Most points by an American-born player

Blanda was rightfully elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981, during his first year of eligibility, and also is in the University of Kentucky's Hall of Fame.

He is ranked 98th on the Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players.

More about this author: Meg A Wright

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