THERE HAVE been many characters and legends throughout the history of the Oakland Raiders and the National Football League, but none like George Blanda. It seemed "The Grand Old Man" could play forever, and not just play, but find ways to win even into his late 40s.
Blanda died Monday at age 83, but the memories he gave to Raiders fans in his final nine seasons in Oakland will live forever.
Blanda was one of the last players to play quarterback and be a place-kicker. In his 26-year career Blanda kicked 335 field goals, 943 extra points and threw for 236 touchdowns. He scored 2,002 points in his career, the most at the time when he retired in 1976 just short of his 49th birthday.
He had many great performances over his long career, but who could forget that five-game stretch of miracles in the 1970 season with the Raiders? Blanda was 43 at the time when starting quarterback Daryle Lamonica was injured on Oct. 25. Blanda entered and threw for three touchdowns.
Then, the next week against Kansas City, Blanda kicked a 48-yard field goal with 3 seconds left to salvage an important 17-17 tie. Blanda came off the bench again on Nov. 8 to throw a TD pass to tie and then kicked a 53-yard field goal to beat Cleveland 23-20. The next game, Blanda replaced Lamonica and threw a touchdown pass to Fred Biletnikoff to defeat Denver 24-19. One week later, Blanda's 16-yard field goal topped San Diego 20-17. He later became the oldest quarterback ever to play in a championship game.
Blanda continued his steady performances until the end of his career when, in his final game in Pittsburgh, he kicked a 41-yard field goal in the 1975 AFC Championship game. It was a no-brainer to put Blanda in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981. Blanda was one of the last old-time warriors in the NFL. They don't make players like that anymore.