Wednesday, February 18, 2009

RIP, Brad Van Pelt

Former New York Giant great Brad Van Pelt has died of a heart attack this morning.
Brad Van Pelt, who played for the New York Giants during his action-packed NFL career, has died at the age of 58 after reportedly suffering heart attack.

According to WILX, Van Pelt graduated from MSU in 1972. The Owosso native was a football great and went on to play 14 years in the NFL, primarily with the New York Giants. In addition to football, Van Pelt also played basketball and baseball for the Spartans.

This story is developing. While it appears Pelt died of a sudden heart attack, the cause of death has not yet been confirmed.
Van Pelt was one of the few spots on many a moribund Giants team of the mid-to-late 1970's. From his Wikipedia page.
As a member of the Giants, Van Pelt was a member of the Crunch Bunch, a team of fierce linebackers composed of Van Pelt, Brian Kelley, Lawrence Taylor, and Harry Carson. The group is widely considered one of the best defensive combos in NFL history. He was also named player of decade for the 1970s by the Giants.

During his 11-year career with the franchise, the Giants posted a winning record only once, in 1981, when New York reached the playoffs for the only time in a 20-year stretch between 1964 and 1983. Van Pelt also has the unusual distinction of playing for the franchise in four different home stadiums: Yankee Stadium, the Yale Bowl, Shea Stadium, and Giants Stadium. He also played for five Giants head coaches: Alex Webster, Bill Arnsparger, John McVay, Ray Perkins, and Bill Parcells.

Ironically, Van Pelt left the Giants after Parcells selected another Michigan State standout, Carl Banks, in the first round of the 1984 NFL Draft to fill the left outside linebacker slot opposite Taylor.

Van Pelt wore number 10 with the Giants, even though the NFL instituted a numbering system for the 1973 NFL season, which limited linebackers entering the league to numbers 50 through 59. Van Pelt wore number 91 with the Raiders and Browns.
I'll never forget when the Giants made the playoffs in 1981 by beating Dallas in overtime in their final game on a Saturday afternoon (they actually had to wait until the Jets beat Green Bay the next day to make it official). Besides it being the first time I ever saw my beloved Giants become a playoff team, the reaction and tears of joy from Van Pelt and Brian Kelley will always remain with me. These were exceptional players who toiled for years on really bad teams and to see them rewarded brought me great joy. It's a shame they never got to win a Super Bowl with the Giants.

RIP, Brad.

Update: A nice tribute from writer Michael Eisen, who interviewed Harry Carson today.
“He just took pride in being a part of a group of guys who had a tremendous amount of pride,” Carson said. “If you look at his autograph you could see how Brad was very meticulous in signing autographs. We would be signing as a group and he would have to be the last one in line because he would hold everybody up because he wrote his autograph in such a way that everybody could understand it and he didn’t rush through it. He also took time to communicate with people who were before him because he was a football player, he is a great person, and I think people will reflect on him as a football player and things that he did on the football field, but very few people are going to reflect on the person that he was that not a lot of people got to know personally. I am just so glad that I got to know the man more so than the athlete.”
I used to attend a lot of training camp as a kid and remember Van Pelt as not only one of the most popular players but always one who took the time to talk with the fans and give autographs to whoever asked.

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