Detroit Lions, Penn State Nittany Lions trailblazer Wally Triplett dies at 92

Wally Triplett, one of the first African-American men to be drafted and play for an NFL team as well as the first African-American starter at Penn State, died Thursday at age 92.

Triplett was taken in the 19th round of the 1949 draft by the Detroit Lions as a running back and returner — one of three African-American players to be taken in that year’s NFL draft. Of those three, he was the first to appear in a game.

In a 2015 story on, Triplett described what it’s like watching the NFL draft now after becoming one of the first African-American players to be drafted almost 70 years ago.

“When I look at this thing they call the [NFL] draft now, I laugh at it with tears because to be drafted now means you’re automatically in a group with people that are going to get paid for doing nothing,” Triplett told MLive in 2015. “You’re going to get paid before [you] play, and so you get some degree of assurance right away as opposed to, when we were drafted, you were just put on a list.

“If you make it, you make it. If you don’t, you don’t.”

The 5-foot-11, 173-pound Triplett spent two years with the Lions and two years with the Chicago Cardinals, appearing in 24 games with 70 rushes for 321 yards and one touchdown along with catching 17 passes for 175 yards. He started nine games in his career, all for the Lions.

He also had 34 career punt returns for 401 yards and a touchdown and 18 kick returns for 664 yards and a touchdown.

On Oct. 29, 1950, Triplett set a then-NFL record with 294 yards on four kick returns, including a 97-yard touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams. The record stood for 44 years before being broken in 1994 and remains the third-highest mark in league history.

He averaged 73.5 yards per return that day — still an NFL record.

“Wally is one of the true trailblazers in American sports history,” the Lions said in a statement released Thursday announcing his death. “He resides among the great men who helped reshape the game as they faced the challenges of segregation and discrimination. His contributions date back to his days at Penn State as the Nittany Lions’ first African-American starter and varsity letter-winner, highlighted by his appearance in the first integrated Cotton Bowl.”

While at Penn State, he was part of the team that helped bring the “WE ARE,” chant to the university as part of how they overcame racial discrimination. He was one of two African-American players to play for Penn State in the Cotton Bowl against SMU in 1948.

In a 2009 story in the Centre Daily Times, Triplett recalled SMU wanting to meet with Penn State about not playing Triplett and Dennie Hoggard. One of their teammates, guard Steve Suhey, said they wouldn’t even take the meeting.

“We are Penn State,” Triplett remembered Suhey saying, according to the Centre Daily Times. “There will be no meetings.”

Triplett was inducted into the Cotton Bowl Hall of Fame earlier this year. In his time at Penn State he had a career punt-return average of 16.5 yards and has the fourth-longest punt return in school history, at 85 yards.

His two years with the Lions and two years with the Cardinals bracketed two years of service in the Korean War with the 594th Field Artillery Battalion.

Triplett was born in La Mott, Pennsylvania on April 18, 1926 and played football, basketball and baseball at Cheltenham High School. He is survived by three children, six grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

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Vince Manuwai, former Jacksonville Jaguars guard, dies at 38

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Former Jacksonville Jaguars guard Vince Manuwai died on Sunday in his home state of Hawaii, his family told the Honolulu Advertiser. He was 38.

The Advertiser reported that Manuwai collapsed while moving into an apartment in the town of Kakaako, which is on the island of Oahu.

The Jaguars selected Manuwai in the third round of the 2003 draft out of the University of Hawaii. He played eight years in Jacksonville, starting 105 games.

“We are saddened by the news of Vince Manuwai’s passing,” the Jaguars said in a statement. “Vince was a quiet, strong, reliable and respected member of the Jaguars family for eight seasons. Throughout his career he was a key part of our offensive line, and the way he went about doing his job was a great example for his teammates and others. We offer our condolences, our thoughts and our thanks for the Manuwai family in remembrance of Vince.”

Former Jaguars running back Fred Taylor called Manuwai one of his favorite teammates in an Instagram post.

“Big Vince never complained and he was always down for the s—,” Taylor wrote. “He’d always say ‘whatever you wanna do bruddah, I got you’ and he always rushed to snatch guys off the pile and pick me up. I love you bruddah, RIP big fella!”

Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said he did not know Manuwai but had a memorable experience with him while he was the offensive line coach with the New York Jets and went to work out Manuwai before the 2003 draft.

“Back in my younger days, I’d get in those drills and hold the bags,” Marrone said. “Vince, he knocked me right on my ass. That s— went viral. All the line coaches that at the time were my friends — now a lot of them aren’t in the league — they are like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I can’t believe it.’ I’m like, ‘That guy is strong!’

“I always watched him because I liked him. Scouts may say he’s a little bit short, he had a little bit of short arms, but he was a tough son of a gun and strong and powerful.”

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Esteemed NFL writer Paul ‘Dr. Z’ Zimmerman dies at 86

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — Paul Zimmerman, the longtime Sports Illustrated NFL writer known as “Dr. Z” for his analytical approach, died Thursday. He was 86.

NBC Sports football writer Peter King confirmed Zimmerman’s death. King worked with Zimmerman at Sports Illustrated, and completed Zimmerman’s autobiography, “Dr. Z: The Lost Memoirs of an Irreverent Football Writer.”

Zimmerman had three strokes in 2008 that ended his writing career after 29 years as Sports Illustrated’s lead pro football writer.

“When I started covering football in 1984, he was Peter Gammons and Bob Ryan and Tex Maule rolled into one,” King said. “His football knowledge was peerless. He knew the technical side and loved it, and he loved the personal side, too.”

Zimmerman briefly played college football at Stanford and Columbia, and covered the New York Jets for the New York Post for 13 years. He also worked for the Sacramento Bee, New York Journal-American and the New York World-Telegram & Sun before joining SI in 1979. His “A Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football” was published in 1970, and revised in 1984 as “The New Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football.”

Zimmerman was president of the Pro Football Writers of America during the 1982 season. He received the PFWA’s highest honor, the Dick McCann Award, in 1996 for a long and distinguished contribution through coverage. In 2014, the PFWA instituted the Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award, given for lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL.

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Jack Patera, original coach of Seattle Seahawks, dies at age 85

RENTON, Wash. — Jack Patera, the original head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, died Wednesday at his home, the team confirmed. He was 85.

“I know Jack was real sick and he was battling,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Patera, who had pancreatic cancer. “First head coach of the Seahawks. That’s too bad. He was a great coach. The guys that played for him really loved playing for him. We meet them on … the alumni days, and he was really important to all those, important to a lot of people. We’ll miss him.”

Patera coached the expansion Seahawks from their inaugural season in 1976 until 1982, when he was fired after an 0-2 start. The Seahawks went 35-59 during his six-plus seasons as coach. Patera never coached again.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Jack Patera and extend our utmost sympathies and condolences to the entire Patera family,” the Seahawks said in a statement. “… A fair, hard-nosed, and often times funny head coach, Patera recorded the first winning seasons for the Seahawks, going 9-7 in 1978 and 1979, earning NFL Coach of the Year honors in ’78. We will remember coach Patera most for his big heart, sense of humor, and genuine spirit.”

His Seahawks teams were known for the trick plays that Patera often relied upon, something former quarterback Jim Zorn remembered in a tweet honoring his former coach.

A linebacker during his playing days, Patera coached two of the most famous defensive lines in league history — the “Fearsome Foursome” of the Los Angeles Rams and the “Purple People Eaters” of the Minnesota Vikings — as an assistant before coming to Seattle.

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Dick Modzelewski, star defensive tackle for New York Giants, dies at 87

Dick Modzelewski, a star defensive tackle for the New York Giants in the 1950s and ’60s, has died at 87.

The team said in a statement Saturday that Modzelewski died Friday at his home in Eastlake, Ohio, outside Cleveland. No cause was given.

Modzelewski spent 14 years in the NFL, eight with the Giants, which included six title games. He teamed with Andy Robustelli, Rosey Grier and Jim Katcavage on one of the great defensive lines.

Modzelewski also appeared in two championship games with the Cleveland Browns. He joined the NFL with Washington in 1953 and also played for Pittsburgh, never missing a game in his career.

He starred at Maryland in college and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1993. He coached in the NFL for 22 years, including the 1978 season as the Giants’ defensive coordinator.

Modzelewski is survived by his wife of 64 years, Dorothy Jane, and four children.

A funeral is set for Oct. 26 in Mentor, Ohio.

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Seahawks, Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen dies at 65

Paul Allen, the owner of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, has died from complications of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, his family announced. He was 65.

Allen had announced earlier this month that the disease, which he had been treated for in 2009, had returned.

Allen’s sister, Jody Allen, wrote in a statement: “My brother was a remarkable individual on every level. While most knew Paul Allen as a technologist and philanthropist, for us he was a much loved brother and uncle, and an exceptional friend.”

Allen, who is a co-founder of Microsoft, had owned the Seahawks since 1997 and the Blazers since 1988. He’s also the co-owner of the MLS’ Seattle Sounders FC.

Allen’s purchase of the Seahawks from previous owner Ken Behring saved the team from a relocation. Under his ownership, the Seahawks reached their only three Super Bowls in franchise history, which included a victory in Super Bowl XLVIII over the Denver Broncos.

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Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and Seahawks, Trail Blazers owner, dies at 65

Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and owner of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, has died from complications of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, his family announced. He was 65.

Allen had announced earlier this month that the disease, which he had been treated for in 2009, had returned.

Allen’s sister, Jody Allen, wrote in a statement: “My brother was a remarkable individual on every level. While most knew Paul Allen as a technologist and philanthropist, for us he was a much loved brother and uncle, and an exceptional friend.”

Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with his childhood friend Bill Gates, had owned the Seahawks since 1997 and the Blazers since 1988. He’s also the co-owner of the MLS’ Seattle Sounders FC.

Allen’s ownership of the Seahawks coincided with the most successful years in franchise history. It has included 12 trips to the playoffs, three Super Bowl appearances and a victory in Super Bowl XLVIII over the Denver Broncos. When Allen purchased the team, it had only reached the playoffs four times since its inception in 1976.

Allen’s purchase of the Seahawks from previous owner Ken Behring saved the team from what had seemed like a near-certain relocation. Behring had announced in 1996 that he was moving the Seahawks to Southern California. Allen agreed to purchase an option for the team that would be triggered only if Washington voters passed a 1997 referendum to foot the majority of the bill for what would become CenturyLink Field.

“Paul Allen was the driving force behind keeping the NFL in the Pacific Northwest,” commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement.

“His vision led to the construction of CenturyLink Field and the building of a team that played in three Super Bowls, winning the championship in Super Bowl XLVIII,” he said in the statement. “The raising of the “12th Man” flag at the start of every Seahawks home game was Paul’s tribute to the extraordinary fan base in the Seattle community. His passion for the game, combined with his quiet determination, led to a model organization on and off the field. He worked tirelessly alongside our medical advisers to identify new ways to make the game safer and protect our players from unnecessary risk. I personally valued Paul’s advice on subjects ranging from collective bargaining to bringing technology to our game. Our league is better for Paul Allen having been a part of it and the entire NFL sends its deepest condolences to Paul’s family and to the Seahawks organization.”

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was among several current and former Seahawks who tweeted their condolences and shared fond memories of Allen on Monday, as did Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, who helped lead Seattle to its lone Super Bowl victory in 2014.

“Paul Allen was the ultimate trail blazer — in business, philanthropy and in sports,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “As one of the longest-tenured owners in the NBA, Paul brought a sense of discovery and vision to every league matter large and small. He was generous with his time on committee work, and his expertise helped lay the foundation for the league’s growth internationally and our embrace of new technologies. He was a valued voice who challenged assumptions and conventional wisdom and one we will deeply miss as we start a new season without him. Our condolences go to his family, friends and the entire Trail Blazers organization.”

In 1988 at the age of 35, Allen bought the Trail Blazers. He told The Associated Press that “for a true fan of the game, this is a dream come true.”

Allen could sometimes be seen at Seahawks, Blazers and Sounders games or chatting in the locker room with players.

Allen and Gates founded Microsoft Corp. in 1975. Microsoft’s big break came in 1980, when IBM Corp. decided to move to personal computers. IBM asked Microsoft to provide the operating system.

The decision thrust Microsoft onto the throne of technology and the two Seattle natives became billionaires. Both later dedicated themselves to philanthropy.

Gates said he was heartbroken about the loss of one of his “oldest and dearest friends.”

“Personal computing would not have existed without him,” Gates said in a statement.

“But Paul wasn’t content with starting one company. He channeled his intellect and compassion into a second act focused on improving people’s lives and strengthening communities in Seattle and around the world. He was fond of saying, ‘If it has the potential to do good, then we should do it,”’ Gates wrote.

With his sister Jody Allen in 1986, Paul Allen founded Vulcan, the investment firm that oversees his business and philanthropic efforts. He founded the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the aerospace firm Stratolaunch, which has built a colossal airplane designed to launch satellites into orbit. He has also backed research into nuclear-fusion power.

Over the course of several decades, Allen gave more than $2 billion to a wide range of interests, including ocean health, homelessness and advancing scientific research.

“Millions of people were touched by his generosity, his persistence in pursuit of a better world, and his drive to accomplish as much as he could with the time and resources at his disposal,” Vulcan CEO Bill Hilf said in a statement.

Allen was on the list of America’s wealthiest people who pledged to give away the bulk of their fortunes to charity. “Those fortunate to achieve great wealth should put it to work for the good of humanity,” he said.

Allen served as Microsoft’s executive vice president of research and new product development until 1983, when he resigned after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“To be 30 years old and have that kind of shock — to face your mortality — really makes you feel like you should do some of the things that you haven’t done yet,” Allen said in a 2000 book, “Inside Out: Microsoft in Our Own Words.”

Allen never married or had children.

Allen’s influence is firmly imprinted on the cultural landscape of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, from the bright metallic Museum of Pop Culture designed by architect Frank Gehry to the computer science center at the University of Washington that bears his name.

Allen also founded an innovative Seattle-based software and production company called Starwave, which played a big part in the mid-90s in getting ESPN onto the Internet. In 1995, Allen’s company did a five-year deal with ESPN that allowed his company to license the ESPN name in exchange for $2.5 million a year and revenue split on ads and merchandise. While the site only sold one ad in 1995, a $30,000 three-month ad to Gatorade, according to Starwave CEO Mike Slade, Allen’s foresight to use the Internet to make the experience better for sports fans was well before his time.

“I remember in 1993, as we were starting up, Paul asked me how much it would cost to get a sports site off the ground,” Slade recalled on Monday night. “And I had no idea, so I just said ‘$50 million.’ And he said, ‘OK.’ And I was like, ‘That’s it? Not like, ‘Why not $40 million?'”

“And that’s why it got off the ground,” Slade said. “Because it took an unusual investor, with unlimited funds, who loved sports and didn’t care that it was too early to have any business plan.”

Information from ESPN’s Darren Rovell and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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Jim Taylor, first of Vince Lombardi-era Green Bay Packers inducted into Hall of Fame, dies

Hall of Fame fullback Jim Taylor, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards over five straight seasons with the Green Bay Packers, died Saturday morning at the age of 83, the team announced.

Taylor rushed for 8,207 yards and scored 91 touchdowns in his nine seasons with the Packers from 1958-66, and he was the first of the Vince Lombardi-era players to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, in 1976.

Taylor led the league with 1,474 rushing yards in 1962, when he was named the league’s MVP by The Associated Press.

“Taylor may not be as big as some fullbacks, but he has balance and determination,” Lombardi once said. “He is hard to knock off his feet and he fights for every yard.”

A five-time Pro Bowl selection, Taylor was the Packers’ career rushing leading until Ahman Green broke his mark in 2009. Taylor was a member of the Packers’ NFL championship teams in 1961, 1962 and 1965, and the Super Bowl I title team.

Taylor, a Louisiana native and former LSU star, played his final season in 1967 for the expansion New Orleans Saints.

“That son-of-a-gun is the toughest son-of-a-gun in the league,” Hall of Fame teammate Paul Hornung once said of Taylor. “I’ve seen him run over guys 30 or 40 pounds bigger than he is like that [snap of a finger].”

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Los Angeles Chargers owner Alex Spanos dies at 95

COSTA MESA, Calif. — The Los Angeles Chargers announced the death of team owner Alex Spanos on Tuesday. He was 95.

Spanos purchased 60 percent of the Chargers in August 1984 from majority owner Eugene Klein for $70 million, the culmination of a lifelong dream to own an NFL franchise. Over the next decade, Spanos bought out shares of several minority owners and now owns 97 percent of the team.

The pinnacle of Spanos’ ownership was the Chargers reaching the Super Bowl after the 1994 season.

While he remained active for many years in business matters related to the team, Spanos turned over the day-to-day management of the Chargers to his eldest son, Dean, before the start of the 1994 season. Dean Spanos currently serves as the Chargers’ controlling owner and team chairman.

The Chargers moved from San Diego to Los Angeles in early 2017.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement Tuesday.

“Alex Spanos is an American success story, driven by a tireless work ethic inspired by humble beginnings as the son of Greek immigrants,” Goodell said. “Alex became one of the country’s most successful businessmen, but he never forgot his roots and the call to help others. Along with Faye, his beloved wife of nearly 70 years, Alex’s philanthropic and civic contributions touched many lives throughout California and around the country.

“He was a marvelous friend and partner, whose impact on the NFL will never be forgotten. We all benefited from Alex’s compassion, character and zest for football and life. On behalf of the entire NFL family, we extend our deepest condolences to Dean, the entire Spanos family and the Chargers organization.”

Alex Spanos was born on Sept. 28, 1923, in Stockton, California. One of six children, Spanos built a billion-dollar fortune in real estate and construction. Alex and Faye Spanos married in 1948, raised four children — Dean, Dea, Alexis and Michael — and became prolific philanthropists, donating to causes related to schools, children, the arts and hospitals.

Faye Spanos died earlier this year, in August, at the age of 92.

Faye and Alex Spanos leave behind 15 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

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Wes Hopkins, who played 10 seasons with Philadelphia Eagles, dies at age 57

PHILADELPHIA — Former All-Pro defensive back Wes Hopkins, who played his entire 10-year NFL career with the Philadelphia Eagles, has died. He was 57.

The team announced his death Friday. No cause was given.

Hopkins spent his entire NFL career in Philadelphia, starting 125 games. Hopkins ranks fifth on the franchise’s career interceptions list with 30 and is tied for third in games played among defensive backs with 137.

“Wes Hopkins is one of the best safeties in the history of our franchise and played a major role in the team’s success during his time here in Philadelphia,” Eagles CEO Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement. “He was well-respected among his teammates and coaches, not only because of the way he played the game and what he was able to accomplish on the field, but also because of the way he carried himself and the type of leader he was.

“He had a genuine love of the game and that’s one of the reasons he connected so well with the people of Philadelphia. Wes will be forever remembered as an Eagles Legend and somebody who helped build the foundation for our organization’s success. Our thoughts are with his family during this time.”

Hopkins was selected to the All-Pro team in 1985, when he had six interceptions.

A second-round draft pick in 1983, Hopkins was a member of SMU’s 2018 Hall of Fame induction class.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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