After their first ever season, the then-Boston Patriots were involved in a blockbuster trade with the Oakland Raiders that sent a 31-year old quarterback to the northeast: Vito "Babe" Parilli. Donning the red, white and blue, Parilli would go on to become one of the team's first big stars and one of the AFL's most productive players.
Yesterday, as announced by the Patriots, Parilli passed away. He was 87 years old.
Parilli was born on May 7, 1930 in Rochester, Pennsylvania. He went on to play at the University of Kentucky under head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, winning two bowl games and leading the Wildcats to a 28-8 record as a starter. Parilli ended his college career with a diploma in physical education and as the N.C.A.A.'s career passing leader in completions (331), yards (4,351) and touchdown passes (50).
His college success earned him the fourth overall selection of the 1952 NFL draft and later enshrinement into the College Football Hall of Fame. Parilli started his professional career with the Green Bay Packers but after two seasons left to join the CFL's Ottawa Rough Riders. Following his two-year stint in Canada, Parilli returned to the NFL to play one season for the Cleveland Browns and two more for the Packers. He then went back to Ottawa before joining the AFL.
Parilli started his career in the newly formed league with the Oakland Raiders. In April 1961, however, the team traded him to Boston as part of a five-player swap: The Patriots sent fullback Alan Miller, halfback Dick Christy and defensive tackle Hal Smith west for Parilli and fullback Billy Lott. It was the AFL's biggest ever trade at the time and secured Boston a second quarterback to play alongside incumbent starter Butch Songin.
In his first season with the Patriots, the then-31-year old started a position-high eight games (of a possible 14). By 1962, Parilli had fully taken over the starting role and would hold onto it for the remaining six years of his tenure with the team. He finished his career in Boston with 94 in-game appearances (83 starts) and still ranks fourth in franchise history in passing yards (16,747) and touchdowns (132).
During his seven seasons with the Patriots, Parilli led the team to five winning seasons and the 1963 AFL championship game. In the process, he was voted to three All-Star games and also was named first team All-Pro in 1964, when he set a team record that stood for 43 years: Parilli threw 31 touchdowns; in 2007 Tom Brady was the first Patriots passer to throw for more in a season. Parilli was also named to the Patriots' team of the 1960s and in 1993 was enshrined into the franchise's Hall of Fame.
After leaving Boston following the 1967 season, Parilli joined the New York Jets. As Joe Namath's backup, he won his lone Super Bowl ring (III). In 1970, the then 40-year old retired and began a career in coaching, last with the Arena Football League's Florida Bobcats in 1997. After walking away from the sport for good, Parilli, a passionate golfer, fell ill with cancer.
He lost his battle yesterday and is survived by his son as well as his brother and sister.