Y.A. Tittle was probably best known for an iconic photo, but his football career was far more than one image.
Tittle died on Sunday night, Tittle’s alma mater LSU and the NFL announced. TIttle was a superstar quarterback whose pro career spanned 17 seasons with the Baltimore Colts, San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro, the 1963 Associated Press NFL MVP and a Pro Football Hall of Famer.
However, it’s likely that if you know of Tittle the first thing that comes to mind is this photo, one of the most famous in sports history:
The photo was taken in 1964, Tittle’s last season, by Morris Berman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It came right after Tittle had thrown an interception and he was hit hard on the play. It became an image synonymous with the violence of football and the toughness of its players. According to Smithsonian.com, as of 2007 the image was “one of only three pictures hanging in the lobby of the National Press Photographers Association headquarters in Durham, N.C., alongside Joe Rosenthal’s photograph of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima and the image of the fiery death of the Hindenburg dirigible at Lakehurst, New Jersey.”
Tittle had memory problems later in life related to dementia. An ESPN story in 2014chronicled his failing health.
Tittle was one of the stars of the NFL in the pre-Super Bowl era. He started his career in 1948 and finished in 1964. What was perhaps most remarkable about his career is how good he was in his final few seasons. In 1962 and 1963 he led the NFL in touchdown passes and was named All-Pro each season, at ages 36 and 37. Those two years he became the first quarterback to throw for more than 30 touchdowns in consecutive seasons. In 1962, he set an NFL record that has been tied but not broken with seven passing touchdowns in a game. His only Associated Press NFL MVP award came in 1963, his second-to-last season.