Chuck Hughes
No. 85     
Wide Receiver
Personal information
Date of birth: (1943-03-02)March 2, 1943
Place of birth: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Date of death: October 24, 1971(1971-10-24) (aged 28)
Place of death: Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Career information
College: Texas Western
NFL Draft: 1967 / Round: 4 / Pick: 99
Debuted in 1967 for the Philadelphia Eagles
Last played in 1971 for the Detroit Lions
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Stats at

Charles Frederick "Chuck" Hughes (March 2, 1943 – October 24, 1971) was an American football wide receiver in the National Football League from 1967 to 1971. He is, to date, the only NFL player to die on the field during a game.[1]

Early years

Hughes was born on March 2, 1943 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[2] He moved with his family to Texas when he was young, along with his fourteen siblings.[3] Hughes attended high school in Abilene, Texas.[4]

College career

Hughes played college football at Texas Western College (now the University of Texas at El Paso)[2] where he is still listed in the all-time football records; his accomplishments include:

  • The most all-purpose yards in a single game, 401 in 1965 against North Texas State University (he is also second with 360 the same year against Arizona State University
  • The most yards per reception for a single game, 34.9, also in 1965 against North Texas—this is also an NCAA record
  • The most receptions in a single game, 17, also against Arizona State in 1965
  • Second in all-purpose yards for a season, with 2044 in 1966
  • First in all-purpose yards per game for a season, 204 in 1965
  • Second in all-purpose yards per game for his career with 132
  • Fifth in all-purpose yards all-time with 3,989
  • Second in career receiving touchdowns with 19 and yardage with 2,882

He was inducted into the UTEP Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006.[5]

Professional career

Hughes was drafted in the fourth round by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1967 NFL Draft and played three seasons with the Eagles before he was traded to the Detroit Lions prior to the start of the 1970 season. Although listed as a wide receiver he saw most action on special teams, being a backup at wide receiver. In his five-year career he caught only 15 passes.


On October 24, 1971 while playing for the Detroit Lions, he suffered a fatal heart attack during the final minutes of a game against the Chicago Bears at Tiger Stadium in Detroit. He had run a pass route but was not part of the play, an incomplete pass intended for Lions tight end Charlie Sanders. He was jogging back to the huddle when he collapsed on the Bears' 15-yard line without contact.[3] Initially some thought he was faking an injury to stop the clock, but when Bears linebacker Dick Butkus frantically signalled for help on the field, [6] it was obvious that he was in serious trouble, and the game, which the Bears won 28-23, was finished in near silence. His teammates were informed of his death before leaving the stadium. Hughes, as it turned out, suffered from advanced arteriosclerosis. The autopsy revealed that his coronary arteries were 75% blocked and that he was killed by a blood clot that completely cut the circulation to his heart muscle.[7] His family had a history of heart problems.[8] Hughes was buried in San Antonio, Texas, and all 40 of his Lions teammates attended his funeral, including head coach Joe Schmidt.[4] He is survived by his widow, Sharon Leah, and his son, who was 1 year and 11 months old at the time, Brandon Shane.[3] A $10,000 trust fund was set up for his son Brandon by an insurance company.[9] His widow filed a $21.5 million malpractice lawsuit against Henry Ford Hospital in 1972 for not diagnosing his condition when he was hospitalized after complaining of chest pains. The lawsuit was settled on October 3, 1974 for an undisclosed amount of money.[10]

The Lions retired his number, 85, in his honor, and annually make an award to the most improved player in his name.

See also


  1. Add loss of Corey Smith to list of Lions' tragedies
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Hughes Collapses, Dies After Game". Herald-Journal. October 23, 1971.,4580476.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Chuck Hughes Tragic Death Stuns Players, Fans". Sarasota Journal. October 25, 1971.,4372704.
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Lion Teammates At Hughes' Rites". Victoria Advocate. October 28, 1971.,4110343.
  5. "2006 Inductees". UTEP Athletics. Retrieved 2010-03-21.
  6. "Shocking moments in NFL history". Retrieved 2010-03-21.
  7. "Hughes Had Bad Arteries". Star-Banner. October 26, 1971.,4289515.
  8. "Hughes Family Had History of Heart Trouble". Times-News. October 25, 1971.,5071693.
  9. "Heart Disease Ran In Family". St. Petersburg Times. October 27, 1971.,1074115.
  10. "Hughes Suit Is Settled". Argus-Press. October 4, 1974.,3271579.
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