American Football Database
John Mackey
No. 88, 89     
Tight end
Personal information
Date of birth: (1941-09-24)September 24, 1941
Place of birth: New York City, New York
Date of death: July 6, 2011(2011-07-06) (aged 69)
High School: Hempstead High School (NY)
Height: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) Weight: 224 lb (102 kg)
Career information
College: Syracuse
NFL Draft: 1963 / Round: 2 / Pick: 19
AFL Draft: 1963 / Round: 5 / Pick: 35
Debuted in 1963 for the Baltimore Colts
Last played in 1972 for the San Diego Chargers
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Receptions     331
Receiving yards     5,236
Average yards per catch     15.8
Touchdown Receptions     38
Stats at
Stats at
Stats at
Pro Football Hall of Fame

John Mackey (September 24, 1941 – July 6, 2011[1]) was an American Football tight end who grew up in Roosevelt, Long Island and played for the Baltimore Colts (1963–1971) and the San Diego Chargers (1972). He played college football at Syracuse University. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.

Career statistics

Mackey joined the Colts in 1963 and had revolutionized the position of tight end by 1966. During the 1966 season, of the nine touchdowns he compiled, six were scores of more than 50 yards, and he served as one of Johnny Unitas' primary receivers in Unitas' later years of his career. Twice Mackey compiled season averages of more than 20 yards a catch, and his 10-year career average of 15.8 is considered remarkable for a tight end.

Mackey also displayed impressive speed for a tight end. During one season, the Colts decided to use him as a kick returner. He returned 9 kickoffs for 271 yards, an impressive 30.1 yards per return.

Although injuries forced him into early retirement, Mackey proved to be an extremely durable player, missing only one game in his 10-season career.

Super Bowl V

In Super Bowl V played January 17, 1971, Mackey was a principal in one the most famous plays in NFL championship history, catching a pass from quarterback Johnny Unitas after the ball first bounced off the hands of receiver Eddie Hinton and then grazed the fingertips of Cowboys All-Pro defensive back Mel Renfro. The ball caromed further downfield into the waiting arms of Mackey, who ran untouched for a (then) Super Bowl-record 75-yard touchdown reception. Baltimore won the game, 16–13, on Jim O'Brien's 32-yard field goal with five seconds left.

Post-playing career

After retirement, Mackey became the first president of the NFL Players Association. He helped organize a strike that earned players $50 million in pensions and much-needed benefits.

"He was the right man at the right time," said former teammate Ordell Braase. "We were a fractured group until John began putting permanence in [the union's] day-to-day operations. He hired administrators and a general counsel."[2]


In 1992, Mackey became the second pure tight end to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Mike Ditka of the Bears had been the first one four years earlier. It has been speculated that Mackey's actions as a high-ranking member of the players' union may have led to the delay in his election. In 1999, he was ranked number 48 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players, the highest-ranking tight end. He was also named number 42 on NFL Network's list of the Top 100 Football Players in 2010.[3]

In 2000, the Nassau County Sports Commission created the John Mackey Award which annually honors the top Division 1-FBS collegiate Tight End. He was inducted into the Nassau County Sports Hall of Fame that same year.

On September 15, 2007, Syracuse University retired #88 in Mackey's honor.

On an October 2008 airing of the NFL Network's 'Top 10 Tight Ends' Mackey was named the #1 tight end by virtually every football figure commenting on the show.

Post-football career health problems

Mackey suffered from frontotemporal dementia, which made him particularly protective of personal possessions and suspicious of anyone who tried to control his actions. During the 2006 NFL season, Mackey was reported by family members to be confused and angered when seeing Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Marvin Harrison wearing the same #88 jersey that Mackey used to wear.[4]

At age 65 Mackey's dementia forced him to live in a full-time assisted living facility. NFL Players Association initially refused to pay a disability income due to there not being a proven link between brain injury and playing football. The league and the NFL Players' Association have responded with the "88 plan" – named after Mackey's number. It provides $88,000 per year for nursing home care and up to $50,000 annually for adult day care. Mackey died July 6, 2011 at the age of 69 of frontotemporal dementia.[5][6][7][8]


External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
John Gordy
NFLPA President
January 16, 1969–1973
Succeeded by
Bill Curry