Hundreds Pay Tribute to Gene Upshaw

Friends, NFL players, and owners gathered at the Kennedy Center today to remember the life of former NFL player and NFL Player's Association, Executive Director, Gene Upshaw.

Upshaw died August 20th of pancreatic cancer.

Art Shell, former teammate, recounted Upshaw's gift of gab, and said, "Gene is probably in Heaven right now wearing God's ear out."

John Madden, who knew Upshaw for mostly 40 years, remembered his friend as being the person he could talk to.

"Players had coaches to talk to, and I had Gene," Madden said.

"You knew from day one that he was going to be someone special", said Madden fighting, back tears.

"I'm just going to sit down now, they way Gene would have told me to if he was here."

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue remembered Upshaw as a man with "intelligence, the intensity to excel, great work ethics, and a suppressed ego."

"He was a leader with confidence and dignity, and deep conviction", recounted Tagliabue.

Friend and former college roommate, Willie Brown, remembered Upshaw as a huge snorer.

"I would try to get to sleep before he did so I wouldn't have to hear him snore", Brown told DC UrbanSports.

Attendees were given a lapel pin with the initials GU and Upshaw's playing number, 63.

Marvin Upshaw made this connection to the number 63 as he reflected on his brother.

"He graduated high school in 1963, he wore the number 63 [with the Oakland Raiders], and he was 63 years old when he passed", said Marvin.

Marvin Upshaw went on to say that Gene had a love for three things: God, family, and football.

He told the audience that his brother would want his friends and family "to be strong."

Among those in attendance at the memorial service were Congressman John Conyers; Brian Mitchell; former Georgetown basketball coach, John Thompson, Sr.; Indianapolis Colts', Jeff Saturday; WPGC Radio DJ, Donnie Simpson and daughter, Dawn Simpson; Redskins owner, Dan Snyder; Al Davis; Doug Allen; interim NFLPA executive director, Richard Berthelsen; Washington Post columnist/ESPN's PTI commentator, Micheal Wilbon;1963 Super Bowl teammate Ricky Harris; and several students from Potomac School where Upshaw's son, Justin, attended.

Upshaw, who loved golfing and boating, will be honored by former Redskins player, Brig Owens, with a Super Leader's Lifetime Achievement Award on September 9th of this year.

NFL players will also honor Upshaw by wearing a #63 patch on the left chest of jerseys beginning this Thursday when the Redskins take on Superbowl champs, the New York Giants.

Upshaw was drafted in the first round in 1967 by the Oakland Raiders. He would later receive All-Pro offensive guard, and would be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1967, his first year of eligibility. Upshaw was voted top lineman in 1977. He is the only player in the history of the NFL to play in three Super Bowls during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

In 1994 Gene was named to the NFL's 7th Anniversary All-Time team.

He leaves behind three sons (Eugene III, Justin, and Daniel), his brother Marvin, and wife Terri.


Upshaw Through the Years

Remembering Gene Upshaw


Quote on inside of Memorial program

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy" - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Anonymous said…
Great article! Thanks for the info.
Anonymous said…
Looks like it was a wonderful service.

What a great person to have been honored so nicely.