2014: Earl Morrall, Spartan Quarterback and Later NFL Most Valuable Player, Dies

April 25, 2018 all-day

Michigan State football Hall of Famer Earl Morrall’s 81st birthday died on April 25, 2014. As a teenager, he led Muskegon High School to the state football title in 1951, igniting a furious recruiting battle between coaches Biggie Munn of MSU, Bennie Oosterbaan of Michigan and Frank Leahy of Notre Dame. Of course, Morrall eventually chose the Spartans and he replaced All-American quarterback Tom Yewcic in 1954. In ’54 and ’55, Morrall threw a total of 167 passes, completing 81, for a total of 1,736 yards and 11 touchdowns. He concluded his collegiate career by leading MSU past UCLA in the 1956 Rose Bowl.

Morrall’s greatest fame came at the professional level. San Francisco made him the second overall pick of the 1956 NFL Draft, but after only one season with the 49ers, he was traded to Pittsburgh in ’57, then to Detroit in ‘58. Morrall spent the 1965-67 seasons with the New York Giants until Baltimore acquired him in 1968 to back up Johnny Unitas. It was because of a Unitas injury in 1968 that Morrall achieved his first major honor as the NFL’s Most Valuable Player. The Colts lost Super Bowl III to the New York Jets. Two years later, Morrall again led the Colts to the Super Bowl (V), this time to a victory over Washington. In 1972, he was claimed on waivers by Miami. He replaced injured Dolphins QB Bob Griese in mid October of 1972 and paced Miami to a victory in Super Bowl VIII and a perfect 17-0 record. Morrall retired on May 2, 1977 with an NFL career total of 20,809 passing yards and 161 touchdowns.

Other career highlights:

» Won the Rose Bowl and played in the College World Series for Michigan State

» NFL Most Valuable Player, 1968

» Starting quarterback on the losing side of the NFL’s greatest upset: Joe Namath’s iconic Super Bowl III guarantee that cemented the NFL-AFL merger

» First Comeback Player of the Year as well as AFC Player of the Year on the NFL’s only undefeated team, 1972

» Developed Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde as the University of Miami’s quarterbacks coach in the 1980s

Source : Mike Pearson, Spartifacts, Lansing State Journal, May 18, 2015.

Chris Wesseling, “Earl Morrall dies at 79; saved Dolphins’ 1972 season“, NFL News, April 25, 2014

Mark Opfermann, “Earl Morrall remembered as all-time great in Muskegon sports“, MLive, April 25, 2014.

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