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George Izo, NFL quarterback in Nineteen Sixties, dies at 84


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George Izo, who was a backup quarterback within the NFL for seven years, including 4 in Washington, and shares an unbreakable pro football record for the longest touchdown pass, died June 11 at retirement facility in Alexandria, Va. He was 84.

The cause was complications from Alzheimer’s disease, said his son, Erik Izo.

Mr. Izo (pronounced Eye-zoh) was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was a university player at Notre Dame and was chosen because the second pick within the 1960 NFL draft by the Cardinals, throughout the franchise’s first 12 months in St. Louis. (The team now plays in Arizona.)

In 1961, he was traded to Washington, where he became an understudy to Norm Snead and, later, Sonny Jurgensen. Mr. Izo didn’t start a game for the Redskins, because the team was then called, but he did make an unforgettable play on Sept. 15, 1963, in Cleveland.

It was the primary game of the season, and the Redskins trailed, 27-7, when head coach Bill McPeak sent Mr. Izo into the sport within the third quarter. Washington had the ball by itself 1-yard line.

On his first play, Mr. Izo faked a handoff, then retreated under pressure in the long run zone before throwing a protracted pass downfield. Washington receiver Bobby Mitchell caught the ball at concerning the 40-yard line, then outran the Cleveland defenders to the goal line.

Bobby Mitchell, electrifying Hall of Famer and Redskins’ first black star, dies at 84

It was only the second time in NFL history that a 99-yard touchdown pass had been accomplished. The primary was in 1939, when one other Washington quarterback, Frank Filchock — a backup to Hall of Famer Sammy Baugh — teamed up with Andy Farkas against Pittsburgh.

Each plays were witnessed by longtime Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich.

“No substitute quarterback was ever more instantaneous or spectacular successful,” Povich wrote of Mr. Izo in 1963. “Izo threw the ball [50] yards within the air, and waiting for it was Bobby Mitchell, no less. … On his first play of the sport, Izo wrote himself into the record books as co-holder of the mark for the longest touchdown pass.”

Since then, there have been 11 more 99-yard touchdown passes within the NFL.

Mr. Izo threw for eight touchdowns in a Washington uniform before being traded to the Detroit Lions in 1965. He had a final season with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1966 before retiring from football. He finished his profession with 12 touchdown passes. The one time he played for a winning team was his rookie 12 months with the Cardinals.

George William Izo was born Sept. 20, 1937, in Barberton, Ohio. His father, who worked at a chemical factory, had played football at Notre Dame under Coach Knute Rockne within the Twenties before having to go away school due to an injury.

In highschool, the younger Mr. Izo was a standout performer in basketball and baseball and an all-state quarterback in football. He followed his father to Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., at a time when the Irish football team was struggling.

In 1958, before a crowd of 57,773 in Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium, Mr. Izo led Notre Dame to a 40-20 win over Navy.

“Using the wing-T formation for the primary time,” Latest York Times reporter Allison Danzig wrote, “and with the newly promoted quarterback, George Izo, completing nine of fourteen passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns in the primary half — one among the best displays of aerial proficiency in Notre Dame history — the Fighting Irish turned the sport right into a rout within the second quarter.”

Mr. Izo grew to be a robust 6-foot-4 and 218 kilos, but knee injuries held him back. Late within the 1959 season, he had recovered and took over as starting quarterback. In Notre Dame’s final two games, he led the Irish to upset wins over Iowa, 20-19, and seventh-ranked Southern California, 16-6.

Within the Iowa game, he threw for 3 touchdown passes, including a 56-yard game-winner to halfback George Sefcik within the fourth quarter.

Mr. Izo graduated in 1960 and commenced his pro profession. After retiring from football, he worked in condominium sales within the Bahamas, then returned to the Washington area and have become a partner in a wholesale food company. He later moved to Arizona, where he coached football and taught at a Navajo Nation highschool. He lived in California for several years before settling in Northern Virginia.

He was lively in NFL alumni events and helped organize overseas tours of U.S. military bases for former players, including Hall of Famers Paul Hornung and Ken Stabler and former Washington quarterback Billy Kilmer.

His marriages to Anita Rowland and Deborah Spivey resulted in divorce. Survivors include two children from his first marriage, Erik Izo of Maplewood, N.J., and Amy Mann Fang of Arlington, Va.; a daughter from his second marriage, Lillianna Izo of Richmond; a brother; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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