Hall of Fame offensive lineman Mike McCormack, who spent nearly 50 years as a National Football League player, coach and executive, died this morning at the age of 83.
The first president of the Carolina Panthers, McCormack was living in Palm Desert, California, the team said on its website. A cause of death was not provided.
McCormack played nine NFL seasons with the Cleveland Browns before moving to the sidelines and then the front office. He was an adviser to Panthers owner Jerry Richardson’s efforts to move an expansion team to Charlotte, and served as team president from 1995-96.
“It is safe to say that we would probably not have a team in the Carolinas if it were not for Mike McCormack,” Richardson said in the online statement. “He had the contacts in the National Football League and was universally respected by everyone associated with professional football. He was a wonderful man, and our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Ann, and the entire McCormack family.”
A Chicago native, McCormack broke into the NFL with the New York Yanks in 1951, before serving two years in the U.S. Army. He returned to football in 1954, earning six Pro Bowl appearances in nine seasons with the Browns. Cleveland won NFL championships in 1954 and 1955 with McCormack protecting quarterback Otto Graham.
“His contributions to our history are profound, not only on an individual level, but also with regard to the tremendous success we enjoyed as a team during his career,” the Browns said in a statement. “Both the Browns and the NFL are most fortunate to have shared part of his amazing life.”
During McCormack’s Hall of Fame induction in 1984, former Browns coach Paul Brown called him “the finest offensive lineman I have ever coached.”
After his playing career ended, McCormack went on to serve as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles (1973-75), Baltimore Colts (1980-81) and Seattle Seahawks (1982). He later became Seahawks president and general manager.
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