Eagles Mourn Loss of Another Legend
The Eagles lost another legend Friday.
The team announced Hall of Fame tight end Pete Retzlaff passed away at age 88 from natural causes. One of Retzlaff's teammates on the 1960 NFL champion squad, wide receiver/kick returner Timmy Brown, passed away last Saturday.
Retzlaff, considered one of the best tight ends in league history, played 11 seasons with the Eagles. His No. 44 is one of only nine jerseys to be retired by the franchise.
"Pete was a revolutionary tight end and one of the most productive players in the history of our franchise," Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie told the team's web site. "He was a five-time Pro Bowler, a key contributor on our 1960 Championship team, and of course his number 44 was retired after he established numerous receiving records over his 11-year career. But Pete's legacy goes far beyond the success he was able to achieve on the field. He gave so much to this organization and to our sport as a player, general manager, broadcaster, and leader of the NFLPA."
Retzlaff also had a local connection. According to Kona Sports owner and New Jersey Surfing Hall of Fame member Mike Sciarra, Retzlaff was a co-owner of the old All Star Motel in Wildwood Crest in the 1960s with former Phillies Whiz Kid Curt Simmons and late Wildwood Crest legend Scoop Taylor.
Retzlaff was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 22nd round in 1953 from South Dakota State - the same school that produced current Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert - but never played for them. He served two years in the U.S. Army, then joined the Eagles in 1956.
A fullback who never caught a pass in college, Retzlaff was converted to tight end and finished his career in 1966 as the team's leader in career receptions (452) and receiving yards (7,412). He still ranks third in receptions behind Hall of Fame wide receiver Harold Carmichael (569) and current tight end Zach Ertz (525) and second in receiving yards behind Carmichael (8,978).
"Pete was proud to have played his entire career in Philadelphia," the Retzlaff family said in a statement to the team's web site. "Our family can't thank the Eagles and the wonderful fans enough for their support that bolstered his playing years and beyond.
"Pete set lofty goals for himself. He believed in hard work, honesty, and always giving 100 percent effort. Throughout his life, he believed in giving back to the community as a thank you for what they gave to him. Thank you to all of Philadelphia."
Retzlaff, a five-time Pro Bowler, enjoyed his best season in 1958, when he tied Hall of Fame wide receiver Raymond Berry (Baltimore Colts) for the NFL lead with 56 receptions. Two years later, he led the team with 46 catches and averaged 18 yards per reception in helping the Eagles win the NFL title in 1960. That remained the Eagles' last league championship until they won Super Bowl LII in 2017.
Retzlaff was known for his versatility. He averaged 16.4 yards per reception, lost four fumbles and was known as a solid blocker in his 11 seasons.
"He was a great route runner, more like a wide receiver than a tight end," former Dallas Cowboys safety Mel Renfro told the team's web site. "Many times, I had to grab his shirt as he ran by me."
Upon retiring after the 1966 season, Retzlaff stayed connected with the team, serving as the Eagles' general manager from 1969 to 1972.
He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Patty; four children, 10 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
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