George Bland set an unmatched standard for longevity in professional football.
On Monday, the Oakland Raiders announced the passing of Blanda, who last played for Oakland in the late 1960s and 1970s.
Blanda began his pro football odyssey in 1949 when the Bears drafted him out of the University of Kentucky, where he played for legendary coach Paul 'Bear' Bryant. He spent the better part of ten seasons in Chicago, primarily as a kicker and backup quarterback, and had a short stay with the Baltimore Colts in 1950.
The story goes that the Bears were going to make Blanda their full-time kicker in 1959, but he decided to step away from football that year. The Houston Oilers of the fledgling American Football League signed him as their quarterback in 1960. He also continued kicking for the Oilers. Blanda would lead Houston to a pair of AFL championships in 1960 and 1961.
Following the 1966 season, the Oilers gave up on Blanda and he moved on to the Oakland Raiders, where he would play for another nine seasons. Blanda had a memorable stretch of games in 1970, coming off the bench to lead Oakland to five straight victories, either with his arm or his kicking toe. Blanda's late-game heroics at age 43 even got syndicated columnist Erma Bombeck's attention.
Blanda would go on to play five more seasons for the Silver and Black, retiring before the 1976 season just prior to his 49th birthday. He played for 26 seasons and threw for more than 26,000 yards and scored over two thousand points. Blanda also held the record for most interceptions until another gray-haired quarterback (and first NFL grandfather,) Brett Favre, assumed that mark in 2007.