George Frederick Blanda (“The Grand Old Man”) (September 17, 1927 – September 27, 2010) was an American football quarterback and placekicker.
Blanda has the distinction of having played 26 seasons of professional football, the most in the sport’s history, and had scored more points than anyone in history at the time of his retirement.
Blanda retired from pro football in 1976 at the age of 48.
He was one of only two players to play in four different decades (John Carney 1988-2010, is the other), and he holds the record for most extra points kicked.
Blanda was signed by the Chicago Bears for $600 in 1949, an amount owner George Halas demanded back when he made the team.
While primarily used as a quarterback and placekicker, Blanda also saw time on the defensive side of the ball at linebacker.
It would not be until 1953 that Blanda would emerge as the Bears’ top signal caller, but an injury the following year effectively ended his first-string status.
For the next four years, he was used mostly in a kicking capacity.
Later commenting on his testy relationship with Halas, Blanda noted, “he was too cheap to even buy me a kicking shoe.” In his second year as a starter in 1954, Blanda started strongly by averaging about two touchdowns per game in the first half of the season.
However, he injured his shoulder halfway through the season and had to sit out the rest of the year.
Because of this, he lost his job as the Bears’ starting quarterback and for the next four years served mainly as the kicker and backup quarterback.
Not wanting to be known as just a kicker, Blanda retired from the Bears in 1959.
Blanda returned to playing football in 1960 when the new American Football League (AFL) was formed.
Blanda signed with Houston Oilers and earned their starting quarterback job.
He led the team to win the AFL championship game in the first two years of the league’s existence.
In 1961, he was named the Player of the Year for the AFL after throwing for 3,330 yards and setting a pro football record for touchdown passes with 36.
The touchdown record stood until 1986 when it was broken by Dan Marino.
In 1970, Blanda was released during the exhibition season, but bounced back to establish his 21st professional season.
That season (1970) Blanda, at age 43, had a remarkable five-game run. Against the Steelers, Blanda threw for three touchdowns in relief of an injured Daryle Lamonica.
One week later, his 48-yard field goal with three seconds remaining salvaged a 17–17 tie with the Kansas City Chiefs.
On November 8, Blanda once again came off the bench to throw for a touchdown pass to tie the Cleveland Browns with 1:34 remaining, then kicked a 53-yard field goal with 0:03 left for the 23–20 win.
Immediately after the winning field goal, Raiders radio announcer Bill King excitedly declared, “George Blanda has just been elected King of the World!” In the team’s next game, Blanda replaced Lamonica in the fourth quarter and connected with Fred Biletnikoff on a touchdown pass with 2:28 left in the game to defeat the Denver Broncos, 24–19.
The streak concluded one week later when Blanda’s 16-yard field goal in the closing seconds defeated the San Diego Chargers, 20–17.