Onward: Darryl Stingley (1951-2007)

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Football took another hit today with news of the death of Darryl Stingley, whose own legacy was defined by a crushing blow that ended his NFL career and left him paralyzed.

Stingley was a wide receiver for he New England Patriots when, during a meaningless pre-season game against the Oakland Raiders, he was felled by a vicious (but legal) hit from defensive back Jack Tatum, one of the most notorious defenders in the history of the game. The hit broke Stingley’s neck and left him a quadriplegic. He had played for five seasons.

From that moment, Stingley became the embodiment of the risk NFL players confront each week, a living symbol of the downside of the mayhem that is pro football.

Stingley was only 26 years old at the time. It took him time to come to grips with his condition, but in time he did. In a 1988 interview with AP, he said: “I have relived that moment over and over again. I was 26 years old at the time and I remember thinking, ‘What’s going to happen to me? If I live, what am I going to be like?’ And then there were all those whys, whys, whys?

“It was only after I stopped asking why, that I was able to regroup and go on my with my life.”

The travesty in the wake of the tragedy is that Stingley and Tatum never reconciled.

Stingley was found unresponsive in his Chicago home today and was later pronounced dead at a local hospital. No immediate cause of death was revealed.

He was 55.

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8 thoughts on “Onward: Darryl Stingley (1951-2007)

  1. blueollie says:

    That is sad. What I remember is that the hit that took him down was a forearm to the head AFTER the ball had passed; now-a-days the hit would be illegal for a couple of reasons

    1) hit to the head
    2) hit after the ball was gone

    I know that he regained some of his arm movement.

  2. Passionate48 says:

    I can still remember Darryl running in the 72 Olympics with such gace and style. Having known him in college he touched everyone he knew both on and off the field from college at Purdue University through the Pros. He is one of the most humble and courageous men I have ever had the pleasure to be acquainted with. God Bless You and I look forward to seeing you once again in Heaven.

  3. Bob S says:

    John Madden went to the hospital to see Darryl Stingley right after the injury, which Jack Tatum never did, but always remember that Madden coached and tolerated Tatum and George Atkinson’s viscious hitting style as Oakland’s safeties. In an exhibition game, the hit on Stingley was uncalled for.

  4. Tony says:

    I remember watching that play not long after it happened. I was only 6 at the time but I immediately associated the intensity of football with that play.

    Stingley was a courageous man. God bless him and his family. Rest in peace Darryl.

  5. “I Was There!”

    My Dad and I had season tickets to the Oakland Raiders from 1969 until the Raiders (Traitors) moved to L.A. in 1981. I was playing inside linebacker at West Valley College back then, and my buddy (also an inside linebacker) and I were at the game where Jack Tatum hit Darryl Stingley on the Patriots so hard that he broke Darryl’s neck and paralyzed him. I happened to be watching the “exact” play with my binoculars trained on Tatum when the hit occurred. It was a clean hit, but just bad luck for Stingley. My buddy and I actually met Jack Tatum after the game when he left the locker room and shook Tatum’s hand and told him what a great game he played. Jack was really bummed out about the hit. You could tell he REALLY felt bad about the hit. He had a sad look on his face when I mentioned the hit, and I told him that I saw the play with the binoculars and that it WAS a clean hit. He was by himself leaving the locker room and slowly walked away to his car. We really felt bad that night for not only Stingley but for Tatum too. Both lives were forever changed that night! Regardless, from that day forward, Jack Tatum “undeservedly” got a bad rep for that hit. Anyway… that’s why football is such a ROUGH sport. Anything can happen at any time! I was very fortunate to get out without any major injury!!!

  6. Though I typically like to stick up for the Buckeye family, I lost alot of respect for Tatum after Ifound out he only wanted to talk to Stingley for purposes of promoting his book. What a piece of crap Jack Tatum turned out to be.

    Other than that, all I can say is that football is a violent game and this is pretty much the nature of the beast. There’s no way to justify saying this was intentional as some believe…or like to ask.

    Best to the Stingley family. Good work Roy.

  7. Yes, I know I’m a Raiders fan, but I always thought Jack Tatum got a bad rap for the Stingley hit. He made a legal hit, and I’m thinking that the mentality of a pro football player is that if anyone gets hurt while playing, it’s unfortunate part of the game. I think being told while playing that he needed to reconcile with Stingley made him stubborn about reconciling with him after he retired. Gotta admit, when I was a kid, I imitated Tatum in hitting kids coming across the middle of 11th Avenue. But Tatum should have shown his humanity by reaching out.

    However, when it comes to Stingley, I think it was an absolute tragedy. What people don’t remember is that he was a pretty good receiver. Whenever I looked at Stingley, I mourned a life unfulfilled, but now I’m not sure. Yes, it was a life shortened, but perhaps it was fulfilled? Perhaps he was able to learn more about life this way than if he’d have gotten up from that hit. I don’t know. I just hope his family is comforted that he’s no longer in pain.

  8. Elester Witcher says:

    I watched that perseason game that night inwith Darryl Stingley was Injuried.
    It was a horrific hit, however I don’t think neither player wanted to hollow the
    end result at that particular time. If I could I would aplogize for Jack Tatum and
    my prayers are for the D. Stingley Family, Thanks for giving us Darryl Stingley
    and all that class to the end.

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