Hall of Fame TE Charlie Sanders dies at age 68

One of the NFL's finest tight ends, Charlie Sanders, has died at the age of 68, per the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame pass-catcher who spent his entire 10-year career with the Detroit Lions lost his battle with cancer Thursday.

A seven-time Pro Bowler, Sanders was enshrined into the Hall in 2007 after 108 starts with the Lions, who picked him from the University of Minnesota in the third round of the 1968 NFL Draft.

"All of us associated with the Hall of Fame, the Gold Jackets, Board of Trustees and staff are deeply saddened by the passing of Charlie," Hall of Fame President David Baker said in a statement. "He represented the many great values the game teaches that guided him throughout his lifetime. Charlie's legacy as a hero of the game and, more importantly, as a great man will be forever preserved in Canton."

As one of the most prolific pass-catching tight ends of his era, the sure-handed Sanders hauled in 336 catches for 4,817 yards and 31 scores. By the time he retired following the 1977 campaign, Sanders ranked as Detroit's all-time leader in receptions.

Named to the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1970s, Sanders spent his entire post-playing career serving in various roles as a scout, assistant coach and broadcaster for the Lions.

"Today we lost one of the greatest Detroit Lions of all time," Lions team President Tom Lewand said in a statement. "Charlie was a special person to the entire Lions family for nearly a half century.

"While never forgetting his North Carolina roots, "Satch" became the consummate Detroit Lion on and off the field. He was a perfect ambassador for our organization and, more important, was a true friend, colleague and mentor to so many of us."

Sanders' 336 career receptions set a franchise record that would remain for 20 seasons until it was surpassed in 1996 by Herman Moore, a player Sanders coached for the first six years of Moore's career.

"Heavy Heart Right Now. Rest Easy Charlie!" Lions tight end Eric Ebron posted on Twitter upon the news of Sanders' death.

A member of the Lions' All-Time Team, Sanders is survived by his ex-wife Georgianna and their children Mia, Charese, Mary Jo, Georgianna, Charlie Jr., Tallisa, Wayne and Jordan. He was preceded in death by their daughter Nathalie. He is also survived by daughter Angela and son Lee.

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