Legendary tight end Pete Retzlaff, a co-captain of the Philadelphia Eagles' 1960 NFL Championship squad, passed away Friday morning due to natural causes, the team announced. He was 88.
"We are saddened to learn of the passing of Eagles Hall of Famer Pete Retzlaff. Pete was a revolutionary tight end and one of the most productive players in the history of our franchise," Eagles chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie said in a statement. "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.
"He stayed connected with the team and the city of Philadelphia for many years after his retirement. I had the pleasure of spending time with Pete over the years and I will always remember him as a true gentleman who was kind and genuine and who connected so well with others. On behalf of the organization, our thoughts are with Pete's family and friends as we mourn the passing of an Eagles legend."
Retzlaff spent his entire 11-year career with the Eagles (1956-66), retiring as the franchise's all-time leading receiver while averaging a sterling 16.4 yards per catch (452 receptions, 7,412 yards). He was selected to five Pro Bowls and tied for the NFL lead in receptions with 56 in 1958. In 1965, he earned All-Pro honors and was named the NFL's Player of the Year by the Maxwell Club after tallying 1,190 receiving yards. He's the lone tight end to receive that award.
His No. 44 jersey is one of only nine retired by the Eagles, who inducted him into the team's Hall of Fame in 1989. Retzlaff, who also helped found the NFL Players Association, served as Philly's general manager from 1969-72. He was originally drafted in the 22nd round by the Detroit Lions in 1953 out of South Dakota State, but would serve two years in the Army before the Eagles claimed him off waivers.
Retzlaff, a North Dakota native, is survived by his wife of 66 years, Patty, four children -- daughters Kris Schroeder (husband George), Daniene Skean (husband Samuel), and Carol Moser (husband Dale), and one son, Jim -- 10 grandchildren (Rebecca Carr, Laurie Price, Emily Jones, Matt Schroeder, Billy Moser, Kacy Brobst, Erin Moser, Benjamin Skean, Maddy Moser, and Colin Retzlaff), and 12 great-grandchildren.
"Pete was proud to have played his entire career in Philadelphia," the Retzlaff family said in a statement. "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."