September 27th, 2010

First-Ever Fantasy Football Draft Pick Dies at 83

Monday, September 27th, 2010

You might not have heard of fantasy football before you and your buddies started playing it online five years ago, but it has been around for a very long time. How long? The first football player ever drafted died Monday at age 83.

George Blanda set numerous passing and kicking records over a 26-year pro football career that landed him in the hall of fame in 1981. He spent 10 years with the NFL’s Chicago Bears before leaving over a money squabble. Blanda then landed with the upstart AFL’s Houston Oilers before finishing his career as an Oakland Raider.

It was in 1963 as an Oiler that Blanda’s name got etched into fantasy sports history when Andy Mousalimas and Scotty Stirling made him the first pick in the inaugural GOPPPL draft. Blanda led the league with 3,003 passing yards that season and ranked second with 24 touchdown passes, but his 25 interceptions also led the AFL (topped by one NFL passer).

The team that drafted Blanda ultimately took last place in that first year of fantasy football, earning the ignominy of the first-ever “Dunce Award.”

Blanda would only spend two more seasons as his team’s primary starting quarterback after 1963. Fantasy football, of course, has only thrived since those earliest days.

(See: George Blanda’s Pro Football Reference page)