Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “John Mackey was one of the great leaders in NFL history, on and off the field. He was a Hall of Fame player who redefined the tight end position. He was a courageous advocate for his fellow NFL players as head of the NFL Players Association. He worked closely with our office on many issues through the years, including serving as the first president of the NFL Youth Football Fund. He never stopped fighting the good fight.”
Mackey was drafted in 1963 out of Syracuse — by the NFL’s Baltimore Colts in the second round, and the AFL’s New York Jets in the fifth round.
He played for the Colts and helped the Colts beat the Dallas Cowboys in the ’71 Super Bowl. His touchdown on a 75-yard pass play helped set the stage for a 16-13 win on Jim O’Brien’s 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds.
AfterMackey retired, he joined Mike Ditka as the first tight ends selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The John Mackey Award was established to honor the nation’s top college football tight end, and Syracuse retired his number in 2007.
He suffered from front of temporal dementia in later years that is believed to have been caused by the contact associated with playing football. Four years ago, the dementia forced Mackey into living in an assisted-living facility.
The costs associated with his care, which far outpaced Mackey’s pension, led to the “88 Plan” for retired players. Now, former players are pushing for better pension plans and health benefits from the league.
“He will be missed but never forgotten.”