Thursday, August 18

TSN Archives: Death Visits Gridiron – ‘The Winning Is Echake’

DETROIT, Michigan – The Chicago Bears beat the Detroit Lions, 28-23. But nobody cared.

Chuck Hughes’ impressive collapse with 62 seconds left on Oct. 24 and death less than an hour after the lean and sober Lions wide receiver surprised 54,418 viewers, in addition to a regional television audience.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” the venerable Bears owner George Halas said in disbelief, even before learning of the 28-year-old Hughes’ death.

Hughes routinely jogged back to the group, the player after catching a 32-yard pass that gave Detorit a first down at Chicago’s 36-yard line with 98 seconds to play, when he fell to the grass in mid-stride, victim of a blow. Coronary thrombosis.

“I thought he was pretending at first,” Dr. Richard Thompson, one of two doctors on the Lions team, said of his initial reaction.

Doctors rush to the field

Doctors and the coach of both clubs rushed to try to revive Hughes, but his attempts at heart massage and resuscitation were futile. Fifty minutes after the game ended, he was pronounced dead.

“He seemed fine,” Bears defensive back Bobo Jeter said. Jeter, along with safety Garry Layle, had caught Hughes on a hard “pinch” tackle on his 32-yard reception.

“He turned around and headed for the group, then he just fell off,” Jeter said. “It seemed awfully long for someone to get to it.”

“I knew him,” assistant coach Jim Ringo said. “We were together in Philadelphia. He was a really nice guy.”

“The win is spoiled,” said Chicago middle linebacker Dick Butkus. “I am not as happy as I would like.”

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The Bears and Lions now have 4-2 records in the Central Division of the National Football Conference.

Ambulance speeds to the scene

Detroit quarterback Greg Landry threw three incomplete passes after connecting with Hughes with 98 seconds left. His last pass of the game also fell without being caught and Chicago ran out the clock when the siren screeched at the ambulance coming to take Hughes to the hospital.

“It made you realize how unimportant a silly football game is,” said Roy (Friday) Macklem, who is the veteran Lions team manager.

Hughes, who was selected fourth by Philadelphia in 1967, was married with a 23-month-old son. He had 12 brothers and sisters.

One of the men who knew Chuck Hughes best, when the late Detroit Lions wide receiver was a younger 15-pound high school student, described him as “the utopia of desire.”

Hughes, 28, played his prep soccer at Abilene, Texas, High School and at the University of Texas-El Paso, then Texas Western College.

“He was one of the smallest college kids we’ve ever had … I don’t think he weighed more than 150 pounds,” said Chuck Moser, athletic director for the Abilene school. “But he was the utopia of desire.”

“Chuck couldn’t play his senior year in high school because he was older. But he didn’t miss a single day of practice that season.

Earn praise from Dobbs

Bobby Dobbs, the Texas-El Paso coach, said Hughes “won his scholarship because he was such a great competitor.”

Dobbs took over at UTEP in the senior season from Hughes.

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“He was the ideal type for my style of soccer,” Dobbs said. “He was part of the trio that helped us gain fame as the ‘Flying Miners,’ along with catcher Bob Wallas and quarterback Billy Stevens.

“I will never forget the first game Chuck played for me. He caught more than 300 yards in passes that day.”

Hughes that season went on to hook 8 passes for 1,519 yards and 12 touchdowns. In his three years of college, he caught 162 passes for 2,882 yards and 19 touchdowns.

“He did it all out of sheer dedication … just a super kid,” Dobbs said.

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