John Gordy
Date of birth: (1935-07-17)July 17, 1935
Place of birth: Nashville, Tennessee
Date of death: January 30, 2009(2009-01-30) (aged 73)
Place of death: Orange, California
Career information
Position(s): Offensive Guard
College: Tennessee
High school: Nashville (TN) Isaac Litton
NFL Draft: 1957 / Round: 2 / Pick: 24
Career highlights and awards
Pro Bowls: 3
Playing stats at

John Gordy (July 17, 1935 – January 30, 2009) was an American football offensive guard who played for the Detroit Lions in an eleven-year career that lasted from 1957 to 1967 in the National Football League.

Early life and college

Gordy played his final season of high school football at lineman for the former Isaac Litton High School in the Inglewood neighborhood of Nashville, Tennessee. He was named second team all-Nashville Interscholastic League and honorable mention All-State[1]. He subsequently college football played at the University of Tennessee. While at the University of Tennessee he joined Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. In his senior season, he served as captain of the Vols. In 2018, he was voted one of the 10 greatest players from the Nashville area ever to have played UT football by a panel of sportswriters[2]. He was a teammate of Johnny Majors, who served as his alternate captain (and went on to become a legendary coach at the University of Pittsburgh and at Tennessee). The 1956 Vols won the championship of the Southeastern Conference.

Professional career

Gordy was drafted in the second round of the 1957 NFL Draft by the Lions. The 1957 Lions, quarterbacked primarily by Tobin Rote and with Gordy playing a key role in the blocking schemes, won the NFL championship, the last Lions team to do so (as of 2018). He played in three Pro Bowls during his professional career.[3]

Gordy served as president and executive director of the professional football players union, the National Football League Players Association. As such, he was a key negotiator of the first collective bargaining agreement in major professional sports. Shortly after its ratification, he was forced to retire from the NFL due to a lingering knee injury.

Later life

"Participatory journalist" George Plimpton stated that Gordy was the inspiration for his second book (of three) about professional American football, Mad Ducks and Bears. Plimpton initially met Gordy in 1960 while doing early research for what would become his first pro football book, Paper Lion, and was told by Gordy that in his opinion there was an obvious wide market for a book about football line play, consisting of young men and boys currently playing those positions and older men who had done so in the past, together forming a potential readership of millions. Gordy, whose football nickname was "Bear" due to his histruteness, was able to interest his erstwhile training camp roommate, Alex Karras ("Mad Duck") in the project as well, although the book was not published until 13 years after this initial meeting. Rather than being the technical work about methods and techniques that Gordy had originally envisioned, it is instead primarily a collection of humorous anecdotes.[4]

Gordy became the California state director of Fellowship of Christian Athletes in 1999. At that time, there were only a handful of public high schools that were participating with FCA. By the time John died, nearly every single high school in Southern California had an FCA group on their campus. Gordy considered this his greatest accomplishment.[3]

Gordy died on January 30, 2009, in Orange, California, after a lengthy battle with cancer.[5]


  1. The Tennessean, November 22, 2018, p. 2C
  2. The Tennessean, November 23, 2018, p.2c
  3. 3.0 3.1 Associated Press (January 31, 2009), Ex-Lions lineman Gordy dies at 73,, retrieved January 31, 2009
  4. Plimpton, George title=Mad Ducks and Bears pub=Random House date=1973 ISBN 0-394-48847-4 pp. 3-11
  5. Gordy, captain of 1956 SEC championship team, dies at 73

External links

Template:NFLPA Executive Director

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