The Assassin is Gone: Jack Tatum Dies of a Heart Attack at 61

Tatum was a beast. He was most known for the hit on Darryl Stingley (I saw it live with my Pop) that caused Stingley’s paralysis and also for the initial hit on Frenchy Fuqua that caused the subsequent Immaculate Reception by Franco Harris in 1972.

He was one of the reasons why the Raiders had such of an intimidation factor long after he retired.

Probably one of the most fear defenders of all time. “I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault.” was one of Tatum’s famous quotes. He tried to rip your head off and it’s a testament to the type of men who played back then because a lot of cats today would not get up after one of the Assassin’s super speed knocks.

The Cherryville, NC native was the 19th pick of the first round out of Ohio State. He played all but one season with the Raiders (Oilers in 1980) and amassed 37 interceptions to go along with 3 Pro Bowl selections. He holds the record for a fumble return (104 yards with Aeneas Williams).

The story goes that Woody Hayes recruited Tatum to run the rock but Lou Holtz…at the time an OSU assistant, convinced the hard as nails coach to move Tatum to defensive back.

Changed history on a few levels, some unfortunate and some relative to the sport of football having such a ferocious factor associated with its play.

There was controversy surrounding the paralysis of Stingley. Stingley wrote in his 1983 book, Happy to be Alive, that Tatum never once called or showed up to apologize.  Stingly died in ’07 and there was never any communication between the two. Tatum response: “It could have happened to anybody,” said Tatum. “People are always saying, ‘He didn’t apologize.’ I don’t think I did anything wrong that I need to apologize for. It was a clean hit.”

He wrote three books: They Call Me Assassin in 1980, They Still Call Me Assassin in 1989, and Final Confessions of NFL Assassin Jack Tatum in 1996.

My goodness…

And the rest of the Assassin’s work…how the hell is he just number 6?

Story of Tatum’s passing on

My son has a future as a quarterback on the collegiate level. His arm is ridiculous. He stop playing the sport to focus on basketball…I ain’t mad at him because of cats like Tatum. Ferocious hitter to say the least. RIP.

5 Responses to “The Assassin is Gone: Jack Tatum Dies of a Heart Attack at 61”

  1. Jerold Wells Jr says:

    I knew Jack Tatum even though I wasnt born when he played. The Stingley incedent. A precursor and link to the guys like Atwater and Lott that terrorized in the 80’s. There’s something about a safety that will knock your #ss out. Point blank period. Going head up with Earl Campbell at the goal line tells me everything I need to know about Jack Tatum.

    Troy Palamalu has some Tatum in him. Brian Dawkins too.

    Few things in football are more dangerous than being a reciever in the middle of the football field. I feel that WR are divas bc they have to be. One ‘JACK TATUM’ and youre done. Shine while you can.

    Rest in Power Assassin.

  2. sankofa says:

    As a young cat getting into the game, one of the best books I ever read was: They called me assassin. That and the auto biography of Walter Payton and Gail Sayers gave me more insight into what a Sunday warrior was all about.

  3. Ron Glover says:

    Dick “Night Train”, Larry Wilson, Ronnie Lott, Steve Atwater, Kenny Easely, Andre Waters, Brian Dawkins, Sean Taylor, Troy Polomalu.

    All roamed that area where receivers checked their ego at the door. But for Tatum it was personal, he protected that area like it was his home and his wife and children in there sleeping.

    He was the keeper of that gate, and the inspiration for some of those named above. The shame is that he’ll only be remembered for one thing – and he was much more to alot of people than that.

  4. Temple3 says:

    Great player. I had no idea about some of his off-field contributions. It is great that his legacy has been memorialized by Ohio State with the weekly Jack Tatum Award for the biggest hit in a game. That says it all.

    I read the story posted on ESPN (I know, I know) about his passing. ESPN didn’t write the story — they bought it. Here are some interesting excerpts:

    Tatum had said he tried to visit Stingley at an Oakland hospital shortly after the collision but was turned away by Stingley’s family members.

    “It’s not so much that Darryl doesn’t want to, but it’s the people around him,” Tatum told the Oakland Tribune in 2004. “So we haven’t been able to get through that. Every time we plan something, it gets messed up. Getting to him or him getting back to me, it never happens.”

    Part of the alienation came after Tatum wrote the 1980 book, “They Call Me Assassin,” in which he was unapologetic for his headhunting ways.

    Tatum also wrote books titled “They Still Call Me Assassin: Here We Go Again” in 1989 and “Final Confessions of an NFL Assassin” in 1996.

    In the latter he wrote, “I was paid to hit, the harder the better. And I hit, and I knocked people down and knocked people out. … I understand why Darryl is considered the victim. But I’ll never understand why some people look at me as the villain.”

  5. KevDog says:

    Tatum played the right way. His seeming lack of real compassion for Stingley left me cold towards him though.