NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- John Gordy, a former offensive lineman for the Detroit Lions and University of Tennessee who helped form the NFL Players' Association, died Friday. He was 73.
The university said in a statement Saturday that Gordy died Friday in Orange, Calif., after a long battle with cancer.
The Lions picked him in the second round of the 1957 draft, and the rookie starter helped the team win the NFL championship, the last time Detroit claimed the league title.
The Nashville native was named All-Southeastern Conference at Tennessee and was captain of the team. The Volunteers were SEC champions that year and went 10-0 before losing to Baylor in the Sugar Bowl.
"All of us who knew John Gordy and were teammates and colleagues are very deeply saddened by his passing," said former University of Tennessee coach Johnny Majors, who played tailback and was alternate captain the year Gordy was captain. "He was a great friend to many, was outgoing and an outstanding leader of our football team."
Gordy served as president and executive director of the NFL Players' Association and was instrumental in negotiating the first collective bargaining agreement in major professional sports.
In his retirement hometown of San Clemente, Calif., he became active with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
A memorial service was planned for Feb. 7 in Irvine, Calif.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press