Sunday, May 3, 2009

Jack Kemp (1935-2009)

America lost a statesman and a gentleman yesterday when Jack Kemp passed away at the age of 73. Best known for his career in politics, Kemp was a proponent of supply-side ecomonics and the chief architect of the Reagan Tax cuts of 1981. And although Kemp was a self-described "bleeding heart conservative," he was not afraid to break from the party line, as evidenced by his lifelong commitment to civil rights, urban renewal and fighting poverty.

Because of his success and reputation as politician, it is often forgotten that Jack Kemp was a heck of a football player. Kemp graduated from Occidental College in 1957 and selected by the Detroit Lions in the 17th round of the NFL Draft. He was soon cut and bounced around practice squads for three other teams before leaving to play for the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. But he was cut again after only playing one game in 1959. His football career appeared to be over until 1960 with the formation of the American Football League. Kemp was signed as a free agent by the Los Angeles Chargers.

Kemp made the most of his opportunity, leading the Chargers to the Western Division Championship in each of his first two seasons. In 1962, the Chargers placed Kemp on waivers after he broke his finger. The Buffalo Bills quickly snatched him up and after his finger healed, Kemp led them to consecutive AFL championships over the Chargers in 1964 and 1965. Kemp retired at the end of the 1969 season just one year before the AFL-NFL merger. Shortly thereafter he ran for congress and was elected as a representative for New York state's 38th congressional district.

Kemp played in five of the league's ten championship games, winning two of them. He was a seven time AFL All-Star and the 1965 league co-MVP. Despite playing during the tenure of quarterback greats Len Dawson, Joe Namath, John Hadl, George Blanda and Daryle Lamonica, Kemp still holds the AFL records for completions, attempts and passing yards.

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