Lions broad receiver chuck Hughes lies ~ above the turf at Tiger stadion on October 24, 1971, having actually just experienced a heart attack. Penis Butkus stands above him.

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I’ve never been one because that bobblehead toys. I have just one, a Detroit Lions nodder the dates back to the Nixon administration. It’s stashed far in some box in the attic, a cheesy, crumbling souvenir that I typically would’ve pitched a long time back but which ns feel an obligation to host onto.

At some point during the afternoon that October 24, 1971, ns bought it for my high-school girl friend (today my wife) in ~ the an initial sporting occasion we ever before attended together: a game between the Lions and Chicago bears at Tiger Stadium. However, it’s a bittersweet token the remembrance. That day Lions finish Chuck Hughes died on the field – the greatest solitary tragedy ever to take place at the edge of Michigan and also Trumbull. In the practically century-long background of the national Football League, the 28-year-old Hughes stays the only player ever before to die throughout the food of a regular-season NFL game.

It’s tough to believe that it’s now been 40 years. It was a raw and also dreary Sunday. A steady, melancholic rain fell all afternoon. Mary and I to be seated among a big group the raucous Chicago fans. The tickets to be a last-minute gift from my older brother Bob, a Detroit News printer who had actually either obtained them from a girlfriend at job-related or, much more likely, winner them in one all-night poker video game downtown. (He as soon as came home with an old DeSoto that he’d won off some bad schmo through no other method to salary up.) in between the fights in the stands and also the see-saw fight on the muddy turf, it to be an entertain experience. Bobby Douglass, an ext of a fullback 보다 a quarterback, had one the the finest days that his career, throwing for 2 touchdowns and then sneaking over because that a third to give Chicago a late 28-23 lead.

With under 2 minutes to go, the Lions released a final drive. Larry Walton, who had earlier snagged a scoring pass from Greg Landry, to be injured. Number 85, lining Hughes, had actually replaced him.

The slender Hughes, one of 16 children, had been a standout at Texas Western, wherein he set receiving documents that quiet stand. In one video game alone he captured 17 passes for 349 yards. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1967, spending three seasons as a back-up end and also special groups player before being traded to the Lions in 1970. He to be a peppery team player, always “patting civilization on the earlier and cheering them up,” Landry claimed at the time.

Now Landry was looking for Hughes downfield, and also the sure-handed flanker do a tumbling grab to provide the Lions a clutch very first down top top the Bears’ 37-yard line. The 32-yard reception to be Hughes’ very first of the year and also only the fifteenth of his unremarkable five-year agree career.

Landry went earlier to pass twice more, cram incomplete each time. On 3rd down, Hughes flanked the end to the right. The bear cornerback extending him later remarked the Hughes’ eyes “looked sort of strange” as they faced each other across the line of scrimmage.

Hughes ran a down-and-in, yet Landry passed rather to tight finish Charlie Sanders, that dropped the ball close to the Chicago goal line. A cumulative groan went increase in the stands. Many eyes to be on Sanders as soon as Hughes, returning to the huddle, suddenly clutched his chest and also collapsed around the Bears’ 20-yard line.

Lying face down in the vicinity of deep left field, Hughes twitched uncontrollably ~ above the soggy turf. Prick Butkus stood end him. Some thought Hughes to be faking an injury, or the Chicago’s bestial middle linebacker had finally killed who on the field. Yet Butkus automatically saw something was wrong and frantically signaled to the sidelines. Trainers and doctors raced out. A doctor charged under from the stands. As an ext than 54,000 human being silently watched, physicians beat their fists on lining Hughes’ chest. The marbled skies hung short over the left-field stands. A cold drizzle fell. The stadium clock confirmed 62 seconds left in the game.

After what appeared forever, Hughes was inserted on a stretcher and rushed through ambulance to Henry Ford Hospital. The video game resumed, distracted players relocating listlessly within the hushed ballpark. A siren might be heard in the distance. Moments later on the game was over and once-rambunctious pan filed out, talk in short tones. Mary and I sat inside an idling bus ~ above Michigan Avenue, the goofily smiling Lions bobblehead in hand, listening to updates drift end the driver’s radio. Hughes to be officially pronounce dead in ~ 5:34 p.m. An autopsy revealed the he had died of acute coronary thrombosis, carried on by premature hardening that the arteries. Nature had given Hughes the love of a 60-year-old man.

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Head coach Joe Schmidt and the whole Lions team attended Hughes’ funeral in san Antonio. Hughes left behind his wife and also a two-year-old son. It to be reported that Hughes had actually complained that chest pain previously in the season however that he had actually been express healthy. His widow sued the Lions, Henry Ford Hospital, and several individual physicians for malpractice. The parties settled out that court. Meanwhile, the Lions took Hughes’ number the end of circulation and established a team compensation to honor his memory.

His higher legacy was a newfound attitude among many that his teammates, consisting of Lions punter Herman Weaver, that was newly asked about that dark day in ~ Tiger Stadium. “I try to placed a laugh on my face every day,” the said, “because we’re not guaranteed tomorrow.”

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