Jack Tatum: A Hall of Fame Career; a Single Unfortunate Incident

When Jack Tatum passed away on July 27, 2010, most comments were appropriately respectful, speaking of Jacks ferociousness on the field and all out mentality. But I was completely amazed at the vitriol spewed by some, primarily referring to the 1978 preseason hit that left New England Patriots WR Darryl Stingley paralyzed.

That single incident will likely keep Jack Tatum out of the NFL Hall of Fame, though though others that played with similar viciousness, and that could just as likely have caused similar injuries, have already been inducted.

In fact, despite the ferocity with which he played the game, Jack Tatum is listed as #6 on NFL Films’ list of Top Ten Most Feared Tacklers behind Dick Butkus (inducted 1979), Dick “Night Train” Lane (inducted 1974), Lawrence Taylor (inducted 1999), Ronnie Lott (inducted 2000), and Hardy Brown. He is followed by Ray Lewis, Jack Lambert (inducted 1990), Steve Atwater and John Lynch.

Even today, many playing in the defensive backfield go out of their way to be intimidating, giving any receiver going across the middle something to think about besides catching the ball. Ray Lewis, once arrested for murder, but released in exchange for his testimony, is celebrated for his hard hits and intimidation.

Playing in the NFL of the 1970’s, the Oakland Raiders were competing with many tough defensive teams—the Pittsburgh Steelers’ “Mean” Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, L. C. Greenwood and Jack Ham. The Denver Broncos’ Lyle Alzado, Randy Gradishar and Tom Jackson. The Miami Dolphins’ “No Name Defense," the Minnesota Vikings “Purple People Eaters” Alan Page, Carl Eller, and Paul Krause, the Los Angeles Rams’ Deacon Jones, Rosey Grier, Merlin Olsen, Jack Youngblood, and Fred Dryer, not to mention Dallas Cowboys’ Bob Lilly, Mel Renfro, Randy White, Harvey Martin and Ed “Too Tal...

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