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.