Raymond Ernest “Ray” Nitschke (December 29, 1936 – March 8, 1998) was a professional football player who played his entire career as a middle linebacker for the Green Bay Packers of the NFL. Wearing #66, he played fifteen seasons, from 1958-1972.
He was selected, at age 20, in the third round of the 1958 NFL Draft, the 36th overall pick.
Nitschke became a full-time starter in 1962, the anchor of a disciplined defense that helped win five NFL titles and the first two Super Bowls in the 1960s. He was the MVP of the 1962 NFL Championship Game, with the prize being a 1963 Corvette. In the game, Nitschke recovered 2 fumbles and deflected a pass that was intercepted. The Packers won the game, 16-7, and finished the season with a 14-1 record. In Super Bowl I, Nitschke contributed 6 tackles and a sack. In Super Bowl II, Nitschke led Green Bay’s defense with 9 tackles.
On December 17, 1972, the 9-4 Green Bay Packers traveled to New Orleans to play the 1-11-1 Saints at Tulane Stadium for Nitschke’s last regular season game of his career. Nitschke recorded the only pass reception of his career in this game, a 34-yard gain on a blocked field goal attempt for which he was blocking. The Packers won the game 30-20 to clinch the NFC Central division title, and their first playoff berth since Super Bowl II. They lost on the road to Washington 16-3 in the first round of the playoffs.
Although Nitschke was known for his hard hitting, he was a good all-around linebacker who also intercepted 25 passes over his career. Vince Lombardi gave partial credit to Nitschke’s success to Ray’s wife, whose calming influence helped him focus on his career. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978.
Nitschke died of a heart attack in Venice, FL, at the age of 61 in 1998. He was in the presence of family, attempting to return to his winter residence in Naples, FL, at the time of his death.
Courtesy of the NFL and Wikipedia