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Former All-Pro NFL Quarterback Earl Morrall dead at 79

Former NFL Quarterback Earl Morrall
Former NFL Quarterback Earl Morrall
Photo by Al Messerschmidt

Former NFL Quarterback Earl Morrall passed away Friday at the age of 79. Best known for leading the Baltimore Colts to the Super Bowl in 1968 and won three Super Bowl rings as a player. He was also known for his longevity as an NFL player (played in the league for over twenty years), a two time All-Pro, two time Pro Bowl player and threw for over 20,000 yards and 161 touchdowns. Morrall passed away from complications related to Parkinson's Disease.

Born on May 17, 1934 in Muskegon, Michigan. Morrall played for Muskegon High School and later played for Michigan State. During his time in college, he led the Spartans to a 9-1 record in 1955 and won the Rose Bowl the next season earning All-Pro honors. Morrall was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the first round of the 1956 NFL Draft with the second pick. His stay with the franchise was short lived and played mostly in the special teams unit as a punter averaging 37.5 yards a kick and threw one touchdown and six interceptions as a quarterback.

Morrall was traded along with Mike Sandusky to the Pittsburgh Steelers for two first round picks and Marv Matuszak where he would play for just one season before being traded once again this time to the Detroit Lions in exchange for Bobby Layne. During his time with the Lions, Morrall would slowly flourish as a quarterback and would have a breakout season in 1963 throwing 24 touchdowns, 2,600 yards and had a punting average of 39.4 yards. He spent 1964 on injured reserve after suffering a season ending shoulder injury. Morrall was traded to the New York Giants and had another great season in 1965 throwing for over 2,400 yards and 22 touchdowns. The next two seasons were spent on the bench making sporadic appearances.

In 1968, Morrall was traded to the Baltimore Colts and became the team's starting quarterback when Johnny Unitas was injured in a preseason game. He lead the team to a 13-1 record and a spot in Super Bowl III (where they lost to the New York Jets 16-7). Two years later, the Colts appeared in Super Bowl V and Morrall came off the bench to relieve an injured Unitas to lead the team to a 16-13 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. 1972 saw a reunion with his former Colts coach Don Shula when he was picked up off of waivers and played a huge part of the the team's "17-0 Perfect Season"when he came off the bench in place of the injured Bob Griese. Morrall would remain with the team for three more seasons before retiring in 1976.

Earl Morrall was the prototypical backup quarterback, a reliable gun who could come off the bench and rally the offense whenever the starting Q.B. was either injured or not playing up to par. He also set the stage for other older gunslingers who later reinvented their careers such as Steve DeBerg, Doug Flutie, Tommy Maddox and Jon Kitna. Morrall was a unique player and an innovator who will be missed. To learn more about the career of Earl Morrall please visit http://goldengatesports.com/2014/04/25/earl-morrall-former-49er-1st-roun..., http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/M/MorrEa00.htm and http:...