The Tragedy of Howard Glenn

Sadly, several players died while members of American Football League teams.  Guest blogger, Dave Steidel, remembers one such young man, the New York Titans’ Howard Glenn.

howard glenn

#66 Howard Glenn

Howard Glenn was only twenty-six years old out of Linfield College near Portland, Oregon, when he earned a spot on the first edition of the New York Titans of the American Football League, wearing number 66 and playing guard.  Through the first three games of that first season Glenn was used as a spot substitute who would give breathers to those in need and filled in for those who were injured. During this time he had found a common thread of interest with new teammate Ernie Barnes, also a first year Titan lineman.  Both Barnes and Glenn shared an interest and talent in art.  Barnes of course would go on to accomplish great things in the field, but Glenn was remembered as quite an artist himself and would often sketch teammates.  Glenn and Barnes became fast friends bonded by art and football.  Then, following the Titans fourth game of the season in Houston on October 9, 1960 tragedy struck.

The week before, in Dallas, Glenn had suffered what was considered to be a minor injury that took more than the usual time to revive him.  The following week while practicing in Houston, Glenn had complained of headaches, but everyone figured that it had more to do with the Houston climate than anything else. Still, Glenn was ready to play against the Oilers on Sunday.  Back in these days, if you walked, you played.  No one complained about injury and medical attention was nearly non-existent.

At game time the temperature in Jeppesen Stadium exceeded 90 degrees with intense humidity still lingering after a mid-week storm that dumped more than two and half inches of rain on the Texas city.  Barnes remembered the day as one of the hottest he had ever known and the sweltering humidity made it difficult to breathe after each play.  Glenn was playing left guard, filling in for injured starter Bob Mischak, Barnes was playing left tackle.  Barnes recalled that during one huddle Glenn telling him “I don’t think I can make it” to which Barnes gave him a nod and tap of encouragement.  Back in the huddle after the next play both players were still gasping to catch their breath.  Now split end Art Powell was also commenting on how hot it was while Glenn repeated his statement again.  It was after that play that Barnes knew something was wrong with Glenn.  Glenn was moving slowly and responded to Barnes inquiry as to his well being that he was sick and had to leave the game.  Another teammate overheard his comment and encouraged him again to stay in the game, to “suck it up”.  Glenn, slightly stuttering, said he’d stay.  With that play the Titans were forced to punt and both linemen jogged off field.

In the third quarter as the Titans attempted a trap play up the middle Glenn got caught in the middle of two stunting defensive players, was sandwiches and knocked to the ground, unable to get back up.  Helped off the field and back on the sidelines Glenn sat quietly on the bench, alone and unattended to for the rest of the game.  He was escorted to the locker room after the game by two trainers where he showered and had a soft drink to cool off.  Seeing him sitting a chair and sensing there was more to this than anyone was aware of, Art Powell called to the trainer to get a doctor to attend to Glenn.  As he was being attended to by a Houston doctor, Glenn became edgy and erratic and demanding to be taken to the hospital before collapsing on the floor and going into convulsions, hacking and gasping to breathe. Finally the emergency personnel arrived and took him to a Houston hospital.

As the Titans boarded their plane for the return flight to New York the players were concerned about Glenn’s injuries but had no idea what caused the convulsions, nor how serious his condition really was.  As the plane taxied down the runway for taken off, it became known that Howard Glenn had passed away 90 minutes after the game.  Barnes, Powell and all of his teammates were devastated.

It was reported the next day that the cause of Glenn’s death was a broken neck but it could not be determined whether the injury occurred the week before in Dallas or in the game the day before with Houston.  Howard Earl Glenn (September 26, 1934 – October 9, 1960) was the only AFL player to die from injuries sustained in a regular season football game.

Todd Tobias (790 Posts)

Todd Tobias's interest in the American Football League began in 1998, when he wrote my master's thesis about Sid Gillman. He created this site to educate and entertain football fans with the stories of the American Football League, 1960-1969. You can follow Todd and get more AFL history on Twitter @TalesfromtheAFL.

8 Responses to The Tragedy of Howard Glenn

  1. Howard says:

    Very sad story. Amazing how far we have advanced in medical skills since 1960. He would have had an MRI immediately if that injury happened today.

  2. chris burford says:

    Dave, sad story on Glenn….we Kansas city chiefs, lost two players from on field injuries in the 60’s, Stone Johnson, broken neck during an exhibition game in 1963 in Wichita, Ks, and Mack Lee Hill, 1965, during a knee surgery procedure after suffering the injury days before in a regular season game….Trajedies that effected not only their families but all of the team members,coaches, staff , and owner of the Chiefs.

  3. Dave W says:

    I was at that game. Glenn did not just sit on the bench, he was walking around in back of the bench in a daze. Jeppesen was segregated back then and someone sitting near us yelled “look at that crazy n****r staggering around.” No one on the sidelines was attending to him. It doesn’t surprise me to hear that he was injured the previous week and had complained, but the local news stories didn’t mention that.

  4. Kevin R says:

    Thanks for this story Todd. For years, I have read very brief newspaper stories and accounts of Howard Glenn’s life and death. This is the most detailed description that I’ve read about this. It really shows how far we have come in treating injuries. I can only imagine, with the tight budget that the Titans had, the quality of medical care for those players.

  5. Tom says:

    Like other Steidel articles this one lends intrigue to the sport we loved and raises more questions than answers. There is some question over Glenn’s birthplace I’ve seen it as Vancouver Wa and Vancouver BC. Glenn in 1959 was a member of the CFL Hamilton Tiger Cats, a season that saw them go to the Grey Cup and lose to Winnipeg. The Hamilton Ti Cats in 1959 had the first in a long sucession of tremendous running backs to hail from Long Beach Poly, Gerry McDougall. Gerry attended UCLA got into Red Sanders dog house and never emerged, at UCLA he teamed with Rommie Loudd, Hardiman Cureton and Ronnie Knox all of who once played in the CFL . McDougall was a big back, huge for his day 6’3 235 and in 1962 signed with the SD Chargers where he teamed with among others Ernie Barnes.

    • Nevin D. Bohanan says:

      Howard Glenn also known as Bud Glenn was born in Louisville Mississippi.
      This information is accurate I am is great nephew and I live in Portland Oregon.
      His brother and sisters moved to Oregon in the late 40’s. The confusion comes in as he played in the CFL and the AFL.
      his birthplace Louisville Mississippi.

  6. […] Accounts vary whether Glenn played at all in the second half, which he basically spent on the sideline. A spectator recalled seeing Glenn wandering near the Titans bench in a daze, unattended. […]

  7. […] Accounts vary whether Glenn played in the second half, which he basically spent on the sideline. A spectator recalled seeing Glenn wandering near the Titans bench in a daze, unattended. […]

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