Y.A. Tittle, a seven time NFL Pro-Bowl finalist whose professional career spanned 17 years with three teams, passed away at Stanford Hospital in Stanford, California on Sunday. Tittle was 90.
Yelberton Abraham Tittle Jr. was born October 24, 1926 in Marshall, Texas. Tittle dreamed of becoming a quarterback from a young age, following in the footsteps of early neighbor and boyhood idol Sammy Baugh. Eventually Tittle did get his first significant action in the quarterback position, playing a major role in Marshall High’s offense which was well ahead of its time and guiding the Mavericks to a state title game in 1943, his senior year.
Though heavily recruited by Texas colleges upon graduation, Tittle decided on LSU. Due to the NCAA relaxing certain rules in a time when college programs were strained by the recruitment of young men to serve in the armed forces during World War II, Tittle was able to see action immediately as a freshman. He set a school record at the time with 238 passing yards in LSU’s win over Tulane in the 1944 season, one of Tittle’s favorite highlights from college. He would go on to be a two0time finalist on the All-SEC first team.
Tittle was drafted sixth overall in the 1948 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions, but began his professional career with the Baltimore Colts. After the team folded in 1951, Tittle was drafted again, this time by the San Francisco 49ers. He was a part of the 49ers Million Dollar Backfield in 1954, which featured four future Hall of Famers, including himself. Tittle was also the first professional football player to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated in November of that year, the first of four times he would be featured on the magazine’s cover. He led the league in touchdown passes in the 1955 season with 17.
In 1961, Tittle was traded to the New York Giants for guard Lou Cordileone. The trade was a somewhat controversial one due to the age disparity of the players (Tittle was 34 while Cordileone was drafted 12th overall in the 1960 draft), but Tittle was quick to contribute to his new team, guiding the Giants to the NFL championship game after taking over starting quarterback duties midway through his first season.
His career ended with the Giants after leading the team to two more Eastern Conference titles in 1962 and 1963. One of Tittle’s most memorable moments however is from the Giants 2-10-2 season in 1964: The 37 year old quarterback was brutally sacked by Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end John Baker, and the image of a helmetless and bloodied Tittle attempting to recollect himself is now one of the NFL’s more iconic images.
Tittle finished his NFL career with 28,339 yards and 212 touchdowns. He is also among a list of seven other quarterbacks who tied the league record with seven touchdown passes in a single game, recently accomplished by Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Nick Foles. Tittle is one of four Texans who currently make up this list, along with Brees, Foles and Adrian Burk.
After retirement, Tittle settled in Atherton, California, southeast of San Francisco. Marshall honored their favorite son in 2014, naming their fieldhouse in his honor. He kept a close relationship with his hometown, attending the naming ceremony as well as a contest in 2015 against Longview; the Mavericks were able to deliver him a rousing win.
Tittle is preceded in death by his wife Minnette, and is survived by four children, including daughter Dianne Tittle de Laet, who in 1995 wrote the biography Giants and Heroes: A Daughter’s Memories of Y.A. Tittle.