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Former Detroit Lions Pro Bowler Mike Lucci dies at age of 81

DETROIT -- Mike Lucci, a Pro Bowl linebacker who played nine seasons with the Detroit Lions, died Tuesday at age 81.

Lucci died after an extended illness, according to an obituary posted by Glick Family Funeral Home in Boca Raton, Florida.

Lucci was drafted by Cleveland, but spent most of his 12-year career with the Lions, from 1965-73.

"Many will remember Mike for his toughness as a player during his nine seasons with the Lions, earning Pro Bowl honors in 1971 and being named the team's defensive MVP three times," Detroit owner Sheila Ford Hamp said in a statement.

Lucci played on special teams during the 1964 NFL championship game won by the Browns. It was his last game with Cleveland.

"I was dejected following the trade, but as the years went by it obviously was good for everybody. ... That was the only championship for me. We made the playoffs only once in my career with the Lions," Lucci told The Plain Dealer in 2014.

The native of Ambridge, Pennsylvania, got a football scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh but transferred and played three seasons at Tennessee.

After his NFL career, Lucci was a radio and TV broadcaster and businessman. He was president of Bally's Total Fitness and co-owned 19 Burger Kings in Michigan and Illinois.

Lucci appeared in the 1968 movie "Paper Lion," about writer George Plimpton's tryout with the Lions.

Copyright Associated Press 2021