Marshall native, Hall of Fame QB Tittle dies at 90
Oct. 9, 2017 at noon
Updated Oct. 9, 2017 at 1:18 p.m.
Pro Football Hall of Famer quarterback and Marshall’s own, Yelberton Abraham (Y.A.) Tittle passed away late Sunday evening at Stanford Hospital in Stanford, California, surrounded by family.
He was just 16 days away from his 91st birthday.
“Y.A. was a very thoughtful guy and he was just a good person,” his brother Don said. “He treated everybody well with a lot of respect. He was a believer in the Lord. Y.A. was a good man.”
“The good news is we had the whole family in his room and we were able to take him off his meds and escort him out so we spent the whole day there singing songs and playing music,” said Steve de Laet, who’s married to Dianne, Tittle’s daughter. “He was alert until the end.”
Tittle graduated from Marshall High School in 1944. From there, he attended Louisiana State University. Among other achievements there, Tittle was named MVP of the 1947 Cotton Bowl.
His professional football career began with the Baltimore Colts of the All-American Football Conference in 1948 and he was recognized as the AAFC Rookie of the Year by the United Press International as he threw for 2,739 yards. In 1951, he entered the NFL Draft where he was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in 1951 where he spent 10 years before being traded to the New York Giants, where he led his team to three straight Eastern Division championships.
On Oct. 28, 1962, Tittle threw seven touchdown passes in a single game to defeat the Washington Redskins 49-34. The following year he set a record of 36 touchdown passes in a single season that stood until 1986 when it was broken by Dan Marino.
The Marshall native also became the first professional football player featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated on Nov. 22, 1954. He finished his career by going 2,118-of-3,817 for 28,339 yards and 212 touchdowns. He was inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
In 2014, Marshall ISD named its fieldhouse the Y.A. Tittle Athletic Fieldhouse to honor the hometown legend.
“The Maverick football family is saddened to learn of the passing of our great Maverick Y.A. Tittle,” Marshall athletic director and head football coach Claude Mathis said. “Y.A. was a legend not only in the football world but right here in his hometown of Marshall, Texas. His legacy as a Maverick will live forever in every student athlete who wears the red and white. Our prayers and thoughts are with his family at this time.”
Keats Mullikin, a close friend of Tittle who lives on Caddo Lake, has looked after a home owned by the Hall of Famer and has several fond memories of the former Marshall quarterback.
“We were sitting down talking one day on the porch," Mullikin recalls. "My oldest grandson who’s a doctor now, he was 10 years old, and Y.A. said, ‘son, I want to tell you something and don’t you forget this, nothing in life worthwhile is ever going to be easy.’ He handed him that picture of Tittle kneeling with blood rolling down his forehead.
“He said, ‘take this picture. I want to give it to you,’ and that boy from that point on, when he was 10 years old, kept that picture on his wall and he still has it on his wall," Mullikin continued. "When he was studying in medical school, that picture has been an inspiration to him over the year. That reminds him that life is never easy.”
Out of all his accomplishments, one of the things Tittle was most proud of was being from Marshall.
“When someone asks me where I’m from, I say Marshall, Texas,” Tittle told the Marshall News Messenger in 2015. “My daughter or whoever is around will say, ‘No, you’re not. You’re from California.’ Then I will say, ‘Well, my heart is in Marshall, Texas.’”
“The older he got, the more important high school football and his memories of Marshall became,” de Laet, said. “It eventually overshadowed his college career and his pro career. He never left Marshall in the sense that it was his favorite place on earth.”
“He thought Marshall was the next thing to Heaven,” Don said. “He just always loved Marshall, always loved going back there. He never forgot his roots there. He really, really loved Marshall.”