Bill Tobin, longtime NFL executive for Bears, Colts and Lions, dies at 83

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Former NFL running back and longtime executive Bill Tobin has died at the age of 83, the Cincinnati Bengals confirmed Friday. Tobin’s NFL career spanned more than five decades and culminated with his work as a mentor to the staff of the Bengals, where his son Duke has worked since 1999.

“It was a true NFL success story,” Bengals president Mike Brown said via the team’s official website. “He was a good person and I considered him a good friend. With Bill, I respected everything he said. I took it as a matter of course. He had an eye for the players and what they were going to be. If he said the guy was a good player, then he was a good player; that’s all I’d need to know.

Tobin was born on a farm near Burlington Junction, Missouri, in 1941. He eventually played his college ball at the University of Missouri where he worked in the backfield as a tailback. In 1963, Tobin was drafted by the Houston Oilers. He then played two seasons in the CFL for the Edmonton Eskimos.

While he was introduced to the NFL as a player, Tobin truly made his mark as an executive. As a member of the Bears, Colts and Lions front offices for 27 years, Tobin recruited eight Pro Football Hall of Famers, including Marshall Faulk and Marvin Harrison. He also had quarterback (now coach) Jim Harbaugh in 1987 when he was with the Chicago Bears, then signed the veteran in 1994 as a member of the Indianapolis Colts. In 1995, Tobin’s Colts reached the AFC Championship and Harbaugh had a career year in which he led the league in passer rating.

Tobin is also known for one of the most infamous quotes in NFL Draft history when he said, “Who is Mel Kiper anyway?” during the telecast of the 1994 draft. Tobin also denounced the ESPN analyst in a later press conference because he was critical of the franchise’s selections.

Most recently, Tobin has been a part of the Bengals organization, initially joining the franchise prior to the 2003 NFL Draft as a regional scout under his son Duke. Tobin has an impact on the Cincinnati team that extends to the present day, serving as, as the team calls him, “a national checker and comforting sounding board in the decade of Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase.”

Tobin’s brother, Vince, who also had a long and storied NFL career, died last summer at the age of 79.



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