Born September 17, 1927 in Youngwood, Pennsylvania. George Frederick Blanda came from a blue collar background, being the son of a coal miner.
George Blanda attended the University of Kentucky where he played quarterback. The team had a 1-9 season during Blanda's sophmore year when UK hired a new head coach. Paul 'Bear' Bryant turned UK around, losing just 3 games in each of the next 3 seasons. Blanda was Bryant's starting quarterback during George's last 2 years (1947-48) at UK, amassing 242 passes, 120 completions, (.496 percent complete), 1451 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions.
Pro career/ Act I
Following college, Blanda thought he was through as a football player. He was suprised to be drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 1949 NFL draft, going in the 12th round. Bears owner George Halas signed Blanda for $6,000 plus a $600 signing bonus. Halas later demanded the bonus be returned.
George Blanda was with the Baltimore Colts at the start of the 1950 campaign for a single game, an assignment usually omitted from his resume. He was one of 4 QBs on the Colts roster, backing up famed quarterback Y. A. Tittle.
Following his brief sojourn with the Colts, Blanda made the return journey to Chicago, rejoining the Bears for the balance of the 1950 season. Playing the next 4 years without a raise, Blanda almost headed further north to Hamilton in the Canadian Football League. Owner George Halas came across with a larger salary, raising Blanda's pay to $11,600. While playing for the Bears, Blanda saw service as quarterback, place kicker, and sometimes linebacker.
Blanda responded to his raise in 1953 by attempting a record 362 passes, resulting in 169 completions, 14 touchdowns, and 24 interceptions on the way to a record of 3-8-1, losing 7 games by 7 points or less.
Next year, Blanda threw for 15 touchdowns before he suffered a shoulder seperation against the Cleveland Browns, an injury which ended his season. It was the only significant injury Blanda endured during his pro career. Backup QB Zeke Bratkowski played (and won) the final 4 games, and the Bears finished 8-4 for the 1954 season.
The next four years (55-58) saw Blanda in the role of place kicker and backup QB to starter Ed Brown. Blanda retired in 1959, weary of dealing with tightfisted Bears management. Blanda once remarked concerning Bears owner George Halas, "He was too cheap to even buy me a kicking shoe."
Pro career/ Act II
Next year saw the foundation of the upstart American Football League. Blanda signed on as quarterback and kicker for the Houston Oilers. Sportswriters blasted Blanda as an NFL reject, but that reject led the Oilers to the first 2 AFL titles, winning Player of the Year honors from the AFL in 1961. He led the league in passing yards with 3,330 and 36 touchdowns. That TD record was the highest of any NFL or AFL quarterback in history, and a mark which endured until Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins threw for 48 TDs in 1984. George Blanda led pro football in pass attempts 4 times, 3 seasons with Houston (1963-65), 1 with Chicago (1953), tying him with Johnny Unitas and Sammy Baugh for 2nd place alltime in leading the league in attempted passes,a mark exceeded by sole 1st place leader Dan Marino. Blanda and Marino are the only 2 QBs to lead their respective leagues in passing attempts in 3 consecutive seasons. For each of his 7 years with Houston, Blanda led the team in passing and scoring. He also achieved a negative record in 1962, being intercepted 42 times, a record which still stands today.
In his 1961 season with Houston, Blanda threw for 7 touchdowns in a game against the New York Titans on Nov 19, 1961. He shares this record with 4 other QBs.
Blanda had 13 games in which he threw for 4 or more touchdowns. He unleashed a record 68 passes against the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 1, 1964. The record stood for 30 years, when Drew Bledsoe (New England Patriots) threw 70 in an overtime game in 1994. George Blanda had been in professional football from 1949 until 1967, an incredible 18 years when Houston decided he was finished and released him on March 18, 1967.
Pro career/ Act III
When most players would be washed up and put out to pasture, George Blanda was just getting warmed up. He was picked up by the Oakland Raiders in July, 1967. The Raiders felt he was a capable backup QB and a reliable kicker with plenty of gas left in his tank. He joined Oakland at the age of 39. In the next five seasons (67-71) Blanda kicked an astonishing 201 consecutive extra points. He played on the AFL Champion Raiders team which lost the Super Bowl II crown to the Green Bay Packers 31-14 in 1968.
During 1970 Blanda replaced injured QB Daryl Lamonica,(who seems to have the name with the most different spellings on the internet), in midseason, winning 4 and tying 1 game. In his first game, at the age of 43, Blanda threw 2 TDs and kicked a field goal to win 31-14 over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The next week Blanda tied the Kansas City Chiefs with a field goal on the next-to-last play of the game. The following week Blanda threw a tying pass against the Cleveland Browns, then iced the cake with the winning field goal, winning 23-20. Next up were the Denver Broncos, who went down before an 80 yard drive in the final 4 minutes, culminated by a scoring 20 yard TD pass to Fred Biletnikof, winning 24-19. Next week the San Diego Chargers felt the Blanda touch when they were defeated 20-17. Blanda became the oldest QB to ever play in a league title game in that 1970 season. In that game Blanda accounted for all the Raider's scoring, throwing 2 TDs and kicking a field goal. The Raiders lost the game however, the final outcome being 27-17 in favor of the Baltimore Colts. Baltimore went on to defeat the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl V by a score of 16-13. Though he threw just 55 passes in his capacity as a backup QB, he earned Player of the Year awards from the AFC as a reserve player.
While playing as a Raider, Blanda scored a team record 863 points. Part of his legacy to professional football is that he became the first player to score over 500 points for 3 different teams. Blanda played 9 years for the Oakland Raiders, and an amazing 26 years total in his professional career. He retired in August, 1976, one month short of his 49th birthday, making him the oldest man to play professional football.
In his 26 year career, George Blanda played in 340 games, throwing for 26,920 yards. He completed 1,911 passes out of 4,007 attempts, a percentage of .476, an incredible achievement in itself. He scored with 236 of those passes for touchdowns. He was Pro football all time high scorer with a total 2,002 points, a record which stood until 2000 when kicker Gary Anderson notched a new high mark. He currently stands at #3 all time, having also been passed by kicker Morton Andersen.
Blanda is one of just 20 players who played all 10 years of the AFL's history before merger with the NFL. He is one of just 3 players who played in every game their team played during the history of the AFL.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame inducted George Blanda in 1981, his first year of eligibility for the honor. He was later named to the AFL-NFL 25 year All-Star Team. Blanda has also been inducted into the University of Kentucky Hall of Fame.