A legend has left the building.
Hall of Famer George Blanda, who helped establish the Houston Oilers as an early power in the fledgling American Football League, died Monday. He was 83.
Blanda played professional football for 26 seasons, most in football history, and trailed only baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, by one season (27), as most seasons played of any of the four major sports.
Blanda played both quarterback and kicker at the University of Kentucky, under Coach Bear Bryant.
He was selected in the 12th round of the NFL draft, in 1949, by the Chicago Bears. After retiring from the league after the 1958 season with the Bears, Blanda resurfaced with the formation of the American Football League in 1960.
He signed with Bud Adams' Houston Oilers to play quarterback and kicker.
“George will always be remembered by me and our fans as the first quarterback of our organization and as the quarterback who led us to three AFL Championship games, including the first two AFL titles,” Adams said.
“He was the perfect fit for the start of the AFL, joining our league from the NFL and displaying the ability to lead a high flying offense. His play garnered our league a lot of attention and fans.”
Blanda would spend seven seasons with the Oilers (1960-66), racking up three AFL All-Star game selections in ‘61,‘62, and ’63, including the AFL Player of the Year honor in 1961.
“In his time with us, he guided the Oilers to 45 wins and still remains the third most prolific passer in our team’s history with over 19,000 passing yards, 165 touchdowns and seven of his most productive pro seasons,” Adams said. “We had a celebration last year in Houston for the 1960 and 1961 AFL Championship seasons and the team hall of fame members, and it was great to have George join us and remember fondly those early years. My thoughts are with his family in this difficult time.”
After leaving the Oilers, Blanda finished up as a kicker and backup quarterback with the Oakland Raiders, playing until he was 48 years old.
Blanda was elected in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981, on his first year of eligibility. He also was inducted into the University of Kentucky Hall of Fame, and the placekicker on the All-Time All-AFL team.
Kicker Rob Bironas (595 career points) needs just four points to move past George Blanda (598) for second place on the Oilers/Titans' all-time scoring list.