NFL Players Association (NFLPA) Executive Director DeMaurice Smith confirmed Thursday morning via Twitter that former Baltimore Colts TE John Mackey had passed away overnight. Mackey was 69.
Mackey was selected in the 2nd round of the 1963 NFL Draft by the Colts out of Syracuse. He remained in Charm City until 1972, when he finished his career playing one season with the San Diego Chargers.
During his time in Baltimore, Mackey was a five time Pro Bowl selection (1963, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968) and three time All-Pro (1966, 1967, 1968).
He was a member of the Colts team that defeated the Dallas Cowboys 16-13 in Super Bowl V. In the game, he was involved in one of the more memorable plays in Super Bowl history, catching a twice deflected Johnny Unitas pass and scampering 75 yards for the Colts’ only TD of the game.
The Queens, NY native finished his career with 331 catches for 5,236 yards and 38 TD’s. He added 17 postseason catches for 296 yards and 2 TD’s. His career was sadly cut short due to leg and knee injuries.
Mackey was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992, becoming just the 2nd pure tight end to be elected (Mike Ditka). In 2010, the NFL Network listed Mackey 42nd on their list of the Top 100 players in league history, the highest ranking of a Tight End on the list.
In the later years of his life, Mackey endured a very public battle with dementia. In a 2007 interview with the Baltimore Sun, wife Sylvia Mackey (who was taking care of Mackey in the later years of his life) said Mackey asked her “Who’s that wearing my number?” when watching Marvin Harrison of the Indianapolis Colts on television. (Harrison wore #88 in Indy, the same number Mackey wore in Baltimore.)
In response to his health battles, the league and NFLPA created the “88 Plan”, providing retired players with up to $88,000 per year for medical and custodial care resulting from dementia, including Alzheimer’s. Mackey served as NFLPA President from 1969-1973, he was succeeded by former Colts teammate Bill Curry.
As more details are available regarding Mackey’s passing, we will make them available via AM1570 WNST and WNST.net. Also stay tuned to AM1570 Thursday, as we will chat with folks who knew Mackey well.