Rams legend, former NFL MVP quarterback Roman Gabriel dies at 83



Roman Gabriel, one of the best quarterbacks in professional football in the 1960s, died Saturday morning, his son announced. He was 83 years old.

“I am sad to announce that my father Roman Gabriel passed away peacefully this morning of natural causes at his home. The entire family has asked for your prayers and please respect our privacy – I love you Dad”

In 1962, Gabriel, who played at NC State from 1959 to 1961, was the No. 1 pick in the AFL draft and the No. 2 pick in the NFL draft. Instead of signing with the AFL’s Raiders, Gabriel joined the NFL’s Rams, a move that paid off big time for Los Angeles.

In the late 1960s, Gabriel became one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. He was a Pro Bowler every year from 1967 to 1969 and was an All-Pro in 1969 and the league’s MVP, when he led the NFL in touchdown passes.

Gabriel, along with the Rams’ Fearsome Foursome defensive line, led Los Angeles to a 32-7-3 regular season record over that span, which included two division titles.

Gabriel’s Rams failed twice in the playoffs against the future NFL champions. In 1969, the Rams were defeated by the Packers in what was Green Bay’s final title run under Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi. Two years later, the Rams were defeated 23-20 by a Vikings team that lost only one game before that year’s Super Bowl.

In 1973, Gabriel signed with the Eagles after 11 seasons with the Rams. That year, Gabriel won Comeback Player of the Year (and was named to his fourth and final Pro Bowl) after pacing the NFL in attempts, completions, passing yards and touchdown passes. He played four more seasons in Philadelphia before retiring after the 1977 season.

Although he is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Gabriel’s career rivals that of several quarterbacks who are in Canton, Ohio. For example, he has more career passing yards and touchdowns than Hall of Fame quarterbacks Bart Starr, Roger Staubach and Bob Griese. He also has more career passing yards than Terry Bradshaw. Championships are really the only difference in resumes between these quarterbacks and Gabriel.

“He was as good as the best back then,” Hall of Fame coach Dick Vermeil once said of Gabriel. “He had a very strong arm and he was a real worker. No one back then prepared to play every week with more effort than Roman did in those days. He was a true student of the game.”

Gabriel is still the Rams’ all-time career passing touchdown leader with 154.

“The way they throw the ball now, it’s surprising that I’m still ranked among the best,” he told Sports Illustrated in 1997. “But if I had been doing martial arts all along, my career would have lasted at least three more years.”

Gabriel was a 1989 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame and an inaugural member of the North Carolina State Athletic Hall of Fame. He was a two-time ACC Player of the Year, set 22 school records and was the first ACC quarterback to throw for more than 1,000 yards in a season.

After retiring from football, Gabriel enjoyed a successful career in acting, coaching and broadcasting. He has also raised millions for various charities.



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