George Blanda had one of the longest and most unusual pro football careers of anyone ever. In fact, Blanda had the longest career of anyone ever – playing 26 seasons in pro football. He is the only player to play in four different decades and at the time of his retirement was the oldest player ever to play in the NFL at 48 years and 109 days old.
George Blanda retired from pro football holding a number of other records including most touchdowns thrown in a game (7-tied), most PATs made and attempted, and most interceptions thrown in a single season (42), but we’ll use this space to concentrate on the course of his career and the longevity he managed attain.
Blanda was drafted in the 12th round of the 1949 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears. His immediate impact on the Bears and the entire NFL was minimal at best when he only completed nine passes during his rookie season. By 1951, Blanda was so far out of the picture in terms of quarterbacking the Bears that he was actually seeing significant time at the position of linebacker on the defens. Blanda would remain with the Bears until 1958, a time when legendary Bears owner and coach George Halas had made the decision to only use Blanda as a kicker. Blanda would retire from the NFL following the 1958 season.
With the founding of the American Football League (AFL) in 1960, the Houston Oilers came calling to George Blanda, and this time he was being looked at as a quarterback. While playing quarterback for the Oilers, Blanda was also the full time kicker on the team. Blanda even put up one of the more unusual stats for a hall of famer ever. He would remain in this position for seven seasons until once again a pro football team gave up on the career of George Blanda when the Oilers released him following the 1966 season.
When 1967 came around, the Oakland Raiders came knocking on George Blanda’s door. This time he was alright with the fact that a team was interested in him more as a kicker than a quarterback, and he headed west to Oakland. At the age of 39 and at a time when most thought his career was over, Blanda would go on to play nine seasons in Oakland, not retiring until reaching the age of 48. He would only see spot duty at the quarterback position during his nine years in Oakland, though he would manage to throw for 23 touchdowns while with the team. That first season with the Raiders he would lead the league in field goal percentage, and four times during his time with the team he would lead the league in PATs attempted and made, including 1974 at the age of 47.
George Blanda retired at the age of 48 having put together one of the most fascinating and remarkable pro football careers in history. Twice given up on as a quarterback, once switched to play defense, and one of the most consistent kickers the league has ever seen. George Blanda played 26 seasons in pro football and no one can argue that he was truly one of the greatest players ever to play the game.