Memorial Day is more – much more -- than the unofficial start of summer, outdoor barbecues and Main Street parades. It’s a day to remember members of the U. S. military who sacrificed their lives in armed conflict so we can enjoy the freedoms we have today.
And that includes military from the NFL.
Former Arizona Cardinals’ star Pat Tillman may be the most recognized name, mostly because he’s the most recent. Tillman died in April, 2004, in Afghanistan after quitting the NFL to enlist in the U.S. Army Rangers and is the subject of a best-selling book by Jon Krakauer, "Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman."
But Tillman is one of nearly 30 NFL players, coaches and team personnel killed in battles dating back to World War II – including 21 players who, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died in World War II. Included is former New York Giants’ star Al Blozis, a 6-foot-6 tackle who initially was considered too tall to serve in the military. But in 1943 Blozis persuaded the U.S. Army to waive its size limit and accept him.
He died in France on Jan. 31, 1945, while searching for two members of his platoon. He was 26.
Blozis is a member of the 1940s’ all-decade team and had his number 32 retired by the Giants. He also had a U.S. Army athletic center in Frankfurt, Germany, named after him and was inducted into the College Hall of Fame in 1986.
But that's not all. NFL historian John Turney has more on the Al Blozis story in a Pro Football Journal piece that he wrote two years ago and we reprint today in recognition of Memorial Day. To access it, just click on the following link: Pro Football Journal: Memorial Day—Al Blozis (nflfootballjournal.blogspot.com)