As we say goodbye to 2011 and prepare to welcome in 2012, I want to take a moment to recall those American Football League players and representatives who passed away this year. Sadly, the fraternity of AFL players that are still with us is dwindling. These men are all legends of the sport for doing their part, no matter how small, in the battle for legitimacy with the National Football League. I would like to thank Mike Thomas (www.nearmintcards.com) and Ange Coniglio (www.remembertheafl.com) for informing football fans of these passings as they occur during the year.
Cookie Gilchrist – Died on January 10 – A legendary running back with the Bills, Broncos and Dolphins, Gilchrist was one of the most colorful of all AFL players.
Ralph Felton – Died on January 22 – Ralph Felton played two seasons at linebacker for the Buffalo Bills after spending seven seasons with the Washington Redskins of the NFL.
Danny Brabham – Died on January 23 – A linebacker out of the University of Arkansas, Danny Brabham played five seasons with the Houston Oilers and was an original member of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1968.
Ken Carpenter – Died on January 28 – Ken Carpenter had originally retired from professional football in 1953, after playing four sseasons for the Cleveland Browns. He came out of retirement to play in six games for the uppstart Denver Broncos in 1960.
Tom Addison – Died on June 14 – An original member of the Boston Partiots, Tom Addison was the first president of the AFL Player’s Association. He played for the Patriots from 1960-1967.
Lee Riley – Died on June 9 – The older brother of famed basketball coach, Pat Riley, Lee played professionally from 1955-1962, spending his last two seasons with the New York Titans.
Preston Carpenter – Died on June 30 – An offensive end/halfback in the NFL from 1956-1966, Carpenter played for the Miami Dolphins in 1967.
Pete Duranko – Died on July 8 – Duranko, a defensive lineman out of Notre Dame, was a second round draft choice of the Denver Broncos in 1966. He played in Every Broncos game from 1967-1974.
George Wilson – Died on August 6 – George Wilson was the Miami Dolphins first quarterback in 1966. Wilson’s time in Miami was unique in that his father, George Wilson Sr., was the team’s head coach.
Jimmy Harris – Died on August 8 – Harris sent two years in the NFL before joining the dallas Texans for the 1960 & 1961 seasons. The defensive back had four interceptions in 25 AFL games.
Ray Abruzzese – Died on August 22 – Abruzzese totalled 10 interceptions in five seasons as a defensive back in the AFL. An alumni of Alabama, Abruzzese was Joe Namath’s roommate in college and again when the cocky quarterback first joined the New York Jets.
Sam DeLuca – Died on September 15 – DeLuca played six seasons in the AFL with the Chargers and Jets. After retiring as a player, DeLuca spent several season as a radio broadcaster for Jets games.
Al Davis – Died on October 8 – Davis began his time in the AFL as an assistant coach with the Chargers. He was later head coach of the Oakland Raiders, AFL Commissioner, and ultimately Managing General Partner of the Raiders. Few people, if any, had a greater influence on professional football.
Houston Antwine – Died on December 26 – “Twine” teamed with Jim “Earthquake” Hunt on the Boston Patriots to form one of the greatest tackle tandems in AFL history. Antwine was selected to the AFL All-Time Team by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.