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Youngwood's George Blanda Passes at 83

Former Oakland Raider QB George Blanda, a Youngwood native and first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer, passed away today at the age of 83.

Blanda, who is credited as being the first-ever fantasy football draft pick in 1962, played professionally from 1949-1975 after a collegiate career playing for Bear Bryant at the University of Kentucky. He spent 10 of those record 26 pro seasons with the Chicago Bears (1949-58) and nine with the Raiders (1967-75). 

A quarterback and kicker, Blanda was a three-time AFL Champion (1960, 1961, 1967), and won the 1970 Bert Bell (MVP) Award at age 43. Brett Favre's got nothing on this guy, to say the least (although Favre did break Blanda's record of 277 career interceptions in 2007).

During that amazing 1970 season (in which he was released during the preseason), Blanda provided Oakland with four wins and one tie via last-second touchdown passes or field goals over the course of five weeks. The only injustice was that CBS's Gus Johnson wasn't around to announce them.

The father of 11 children with wife Betty, Blanda retired from pro football in 1976 at age 49(!) holding numerous records such as most passing TDs in a game (7),  the oldest person to play in an NFL game (&000000000000004800000048 years, &0000000000000109000000109 days), the most total points accounted for (including TD passes) in a career (3,418), the oldest person to play in an NFL game (&000000000000004800000048 years, &0000000000000109000000109 days) and a host of others. His final game was played close to home on January 4, 1976, when his Raiders lost 16-10 in the AFC Championship to the Steelers.

Blanda is the placekicker on the AFL All-Time Team and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1981. His presenter that day was Al Davis, who had this to say about Blanda: "George Blanda inspired a whole nation in 1970. I really believe he is the greatest clutch player in the history of this game."

In retirement, Blanda was involved in many charity golf outings, corporate motivational speaking, and followed horse racing. He and wife Betty split time between Chicago and LaQuinta, near Palm Springs.

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