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Old 09-08-2015, 12:01 AM
 
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I had PBS' Frontline documentary "League of Denial" on in the background tonight and there were a few things here and there that just sounded off to me. I did a quick Google on "NFL Players mortality" and saw that according to some sources players could live between 55 and 60, depending on race. I saw another article that said NFL players lived longer than the general population. Now, I know that life expectancy and quality of life are very different things. I don't have the time to read every autobiography of old players, nor can I expect to interview them all personally. Simply looking to see if they are still alive, how old they are, what race they are, and what position they played I thought would give me some kind of idea about the general health of former players.

I chose the Packers from 1966 because their rookies should still be 70 by now, and because of their notoriety I thought it would make finding quick data on them easier and more reliable. I am not a statistician or in any field that would give me much experience in doing this kind of work, so what you are getting here is a quick and dirty spreadsheet that I common sense'd together. Some notes:

- Of the 23 players I looked at, 15 are still alive (65%).
- There are 5 players who have reached age 80, and all but 1 still survive.
- The youngest death was at 42 of a heart attack.
- Of 6 black players, 3 are now deceased (50%).
- For the 17 white players, 5 are now deceased (29.41%)
- Of the 8 deceased players, 6 played primarily on the defensive unit (75%).
- The average age of players, including both living and deceased, is currently at 71 years.
- The average age for players in the offensive unit is 77%
- The average age for players in the defensive unit is 65%

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Old 09-08-2015, 09:19 AM
 
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I watched the Ohio State/Virginia Tech game last night and was not aware of the documentary. As the title of this program is "League Of Denial", a few notes are in order here. I don't know the reason of deaths for ALL the players listed here, but a title called "League Of Denial" certainly suggests to me the players suffered early death due to various football related injuries and it's long term effects, such as CTE. A few comments off the top of my noggin' here.

OK, first let me talk about one of the noted Green Bay Packer players during their glory years who was left out and should be on this list--Max McGee. McGee died a couple years ago, am thinking he was 75. Cause of death? He was blowing leaves off the roof of his house when he fell off his roof. I don't think his injury was football related. If I was 75 I DAMN sure wouldn't be up there, that's for sure!

Henry Jordon died of a heart attack at 42. Was it football related? Um, I would guess not. Bad eating habits? A heart defect? I'd have to dig into this a little deeper.

Ron Kostelnik. Died of a heart attack at 53 years of age. Kostelnik, like a lot of Packer players during those years, stayed in the area after retirement and actually became a CEO for Mainline Distribution Inc. in Appleton, Wisconsin. Was his death football related? Um, I kind of doubt it.

LeRoy Caffey died at 52 years of age. The cause of death was colon cancer. Packer head coach and gm Vince Lombardi fits into this exact scenario, dying at pretty much the same age from the same cause. Was it football related? Um, I would guess not. The word was out even back in the 70's for men to check checked for polyps when you get to 45 years old or so.

Lionel Aldridge died at 56 years of age. The cause of death was congestive heart failure. While there could be a link here it should be noted that Aldridge had suffered from depression for years before he became an NFL player and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia after he retired. He became one of the better football color men on tv but PS was something he couldn't conquer. He lost his marriage, lost his job, and became homeless. And was homeless for years. There is a story about how his Packer teammates rallied around him once they found out what had happened to him. Aldridge's super bowl ring from SB-I had been lost and his teammates chipped in money to craft a new ring for him. Aldridge made a comeback right there. He eventually became an advocate for the homeless in the state of Wisconsin, particularly the Milwaukee area.

In the back of Lionel's mind, he should have known he was highly thought of by the Packer organization and THAT was started by Vince Lombardi in Lionel's early years. Lionel had been engaged to a white woman when the media gossipmongers spread that bit of news around the league. Anti miscegenation (defined as the banning of inter racial marriage) was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967 but we're talking 1963 here in Lionel's case. Lots of team owners sent word about this to NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle. Rozelle flew out to Green Bay and Vince Lombardi stopped him in his tracks. According to Lionel's wife in the NFL films documentary on Lombardi (A Football Life), Lombardi told Rozelle, "This is my team. You can't tell me how to run my team. As long as he keeps his nose clean and plays good football whatever the two of them do is OK by me."

I'm not a Packer loyalist, but I respect the heck out of this franchise, always have.

Maybe the Packer fans who post on this forum can provide some input here.

Last edited by DOUBLE H; 09-08-2015 at 01:24 PM.. Reason: addition, spelling
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Old 09-30-2015, 10:52 PM
 
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And the above post is one reason why I respect Lombardi. He also stood up for and protected his gay players.
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Old 10-01-2015, 06:41 AM
 
Location: Two Rivers, Wisconsin
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Lombardi was discriminated against as an Italian American, and he vowed it would never happen to his team. He was the forerunner at a time when black players were treated differently.

It was wonderful to see interviews with players who were able to make it to Lambeau. They took part in meetings with the team, interacting with current players. They all commented about McCarthy and the position coaches making them a part of the weeks preparation. They were impressed with the youngest players asking questions of them, being very respectful. A list of attendees from Packers website:

Among the Super Bowl I alumni scheduled to attend are Donny Anderson, Zeke Bratkowski, Allen Brown, Tom Brown, Bill Curry, Carroll Dale, Willie Davis, Boyd Dowler, Marv Fleming, Jim Grabowski, Forrest Gregg, Doug Hart, Dave Hathcock, Jerry Kramer, William Mack, Dave Robinson, Jim Taylor and Stephen Wright. There were also another 2 dozen players from the Packers Hall of Fame.

I know all teams respect and do things for former players, but Packers seem to take it to another level. The fan tour is huge where they climb on a bus, some current players, some former, pick a route and stop at schools, hospitals and nursing homes. Of course not a regular bus, totally decked out, CEO Mark Murphy always goes, too.

Last edited by susancruzs; 10-01-2015 at 06:55 AM..
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Old 10-01-2015, 10:03 AM
 
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My opinion:

They're athletes, they will most likely live longer than an average person. However, some of these players, sometimes even when still playing have developed chronic injuries and they will have to live with that. These chronic injuries are sometimes things an average person will never have.
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Old 10-02-2015, 11:44 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DOUBLE H View Post
OK, first let me talk about one of the noted Green Bay Packer players during their glory years who was left out and should be on this list--Max McGee. McGee died a couple years ago, am thinking he was 75. Cause of death? He was blowing leaves off the roof of his house when he fell off his roof. I don't think his injury was football related. If I was 75 I DAMN sure wouldn't be up there, that's for sure!
Max McGee should have been dead at 40. He was a legendary drunk
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Old 10-02-2015, 04:49 PM
 
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Regarding the OP's list, a few comments about Willie Wood.

Wood is one who IS in rough shape. A couple decades ago he had both knees replaced and one hip replaced and has suffered from Alzheimers for several years.He was out of Univ. of Southern California and played as quarterback. Green Bay signed him as a free agent in 1960. As he was a 5' 10" 180 pound quarterback being a Packer qb was not going to work here. Lombardi put him in as safety and was an 8 time pro bowler. He went into the HOF in 1989. I saw an interview once with Willie Davis and he said Wood was a firm believer in two below the knees. Just thinking about guys like Jim Brown, John Henry Johnson, and other great backs from that time, I'm sure Wood had his share of concussions trying to bring down running backs of that size.
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Old 10-02-2015, 08:12 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Labonte18 View Post
Max McGee should have been dead at 40. He was a legendary drunk
Not knowing the Packer greats from that time as well as the hard core fans who post regularly on the Packer team thread, for instance, I'm quite sure McGee along with his drinking buddy Paul Hornung, well, I'm sure they didn't miss a tavern that they didn't have a toddy or two. heh, or three or four!
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Old 10-02-2015, 08:24 PM
 
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Originally Posted by susancruzs View Post
Lombardi was discriminated against as an Italian American, and he vowed it would never happen to his team. He was the forerunner at a time when black players were treated differently.
Susan is right. NFL Films did a great job on Lombardi in "A Football Life", which should be available by now (or soon hopefully) for sale. The issue of dicrimination was discussed regarding his youth as well as when he was an assitant coach at Army in the 1940's.

15 years ago ESPN had a great series of documentaries; it was called "Sports Century." Created in 2000, they won an Emmy for best TV documentary. A few things that were pointed out about Lombardi:

1. When he became head coach and general manager in 1959 there was only 1 black player on the squad. When he left in 1969, there were 13.

2.He became Red Blaik's top assistant at West Point but during that time he was always lobbying other schools as he wanted to be a head coach. Finally Wake Forest contacts him but they were, as NY sportswriter Jerry Izenberg stated in the interview, the coaches graveyard of the South. Lombardi doesn't care, he just wants an interview. He was told later by one of the honchos there, that Wake Forest will never hire an individual as a head coach whose last name ends with a vowel. Of course, that means an Italian American. Lombardi absolutely knew about discrimination.

Last edited by DOUBLE H; 10-02-2015 at 10:47 PM.. Reason: addition, spelling
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Old 10-03-2015, 09:41 PM
 
Location: Caverns measureless to man...
7,247 posts, read 4,675,156 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Labonte18 View Post
Max McGee should have been dead at 40. He was a legendary drunk
I'm sure there were a lot of mornings that he woke up thinking he was, or at least wishing it.

Interesting story about ol' Max. The night before Super Bowl I, he ignored Lombardi's curfew and went out on the town for a bender of legendary proportions. He never even bothered going back to the hotel; just went straight to the stadium the next day. He figured there was nothing to lose; Boyd Dowler was going to get all the snaps anyway, and he was just going to watch the game from the bench.

In fact, he didn't even bring his helmet out of the locker room - just suited up and went out on the field with the team. Dowler saw him wobbling, and said "Hey, Max, you OK?" McGee said, "I hope you don't get hurt today, buddy. I'm in pretty rough shape."

Second drive of the game, Dowler separated his shoulder and was out for the day. Lombardi yelled, "Max - get in there!" He had to grab a helmet from someone sitting close to him, and ran in to huddle up. Third play in, he snagged a pass from Starr out of the air with just one hand, danced past... mmm... I dunno... Fred Williamson, maybe?... anyway, squirted past him and raced 37 or 38 yards to score the first touchdown in Super Bowl history. He finished with 7 or 8 catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns, and later said that the toughest part of it all was never letting Lombardi get close to him all day. He said he was so drunk he was slurring his words, and Lombardi would have smelled it on him a mile away.

Different game back then, very different. The Packers used to hold training camp in my hometown (until the city finally got tired of them and told them they weren't welcome anymore), and they still tell stories there about the damage that was done to some of the local bars. Guys like Hornung, McGee, Nitschke, and a few others took their drinking very, very seriously.

What amazes me is how well Hornung has held up over the years. I was mountain biking in Northern Wisconsin a few years ago, and one of the trails went past a golf course at a resort for a short distance. Hornung was out there shooting a round with some buddies, and I waved and said hello as I rode past. He flashed that "Golden Boy" grin, waved his club at me, and I swear he looked as though he could still suit up and run for a 100 or more.
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