Story updated, 9/27/2010, 6:14 p.m. EDT
, a Hall of Fame quarterback who also excelled as a kicker, passed away early this morning after a brief illness. He was 83.
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Blanda played more seasons than any player in NFL history. He retired following the 1975 season and just shy of his 49th birthday after 26 seasons with the , Baltimore Colts, Houston Oilers, and .
A prolific passer, Blanda threw for nearly 27,000 yards and 236 TDs. He is also the first player ever to score 2,000 career points.
“All of us at the Pro Football Hall of Fame are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of a great friend and a truly iconic figure in pro football history, ,” commented the Pro Football Hall of Fame President/Executive Director Steve Perry. “A seemingly ageless wonder, George inspired legions of fans over a 26-year career, with his clutch performances as a quarterback and place kicker. He will be truly missed. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to his wife Betty and the entire Blanda family.”
Blanda began his career in 1949 with the . He was dealt along with four other players to the Baltimore Colts in September of the following season. Two weeks later, the Bears reacquired him from the Colts after he played in just one game for Baltimore. He remained in a Bears uniform through 1958. Aside from handling the kicking duties, he quickly developed into an elite passer.
After a one-year hiatus, he was coaxed out of retirement by the Houston Oilers in the new American Football League. Blanda led the Oilers to back-to-back AFL titles. His finest season came in 1961 when he was named the league’s Player of the Year after throwing a then-record 36 TDs including seven in one game. He remains one of just five passers ever to throw seven touchdowns in a game.
Blanda joined the Raiders in 1967 and played the next nine years in Oakland before retiring. Blanda stepped away from the game just before the start of the 1976 season at age 48. During his tenure with the Raiders, the team never posted a losing season and won eight division titles. His most memorable year in Oakland came during the 1970 season when he, at age 43, strung together five straight last-minute heroic efforts for the Raiders.
In all, Blanda played in 340 regular season games, completed 1,911 of 4,007 passes for 26,920 yards, 236 touchdowns, and 277 interceptions. His then-record 2,002 points came via 943 extra points, 335 field goals, and nine rushing touchdowns.
He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981 in his first year of eligibility.
There will be a private funeral service for the family. A memorial service will be held at a time and location to be announced later.
More from Profootballhof.com:
Blanda’s HOF Bio
Photo Gallery: - Class of 1981
Blanda throws for 300 yards, 3 TDs in first AFL Championship Game
Blanda's memorable 1970 season | Hall of Fame display
QBs with 7 TDs in game
Top 20 Scorers
Defunct Teams - Baltimore Colts (1947-49 AAFC, 1950 NFL)