Former Syracuse and Baltimore Colts tight end John Mackey died Wednesday night. He was 69.
Mackey, a member of the NFL Hall of Fame, was also a former NFLPA president and helped fight for health care rights for NFL players, especially those who suffered from dementia as Mackey did during the latter years of his life.
"John Mackey was one of the great leaders in NFL history, on and off the field," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "He was a Hall of Fame player who redefined the tight end position. He was a courageous advocate for his fellow NFL players as head of the NFL Players Association. He worked closely with our office on many issues through the years, including serving as the first president of the NFL Youth Football Fund. He never stopped fighting the good fight."
“John Mackey's passing is extremely difficult news for all of us," added Syracuse Director of Athletics Dr. Daryl Gross. "John was a true hero, an icon, and a leader in the world. Our hearts go out to his lovely wife, Sylvia, and his family. His impact on Syracuse will never be forgotten as his legacy will last forever. We salute and celebrate John's amazing life, as he has touched us all. God bless John Mackey.”
Mackey was also the inspiration for college football's John Mackey Award, which is given out by the Nassau County Sports Commission every season to the best tight end in college football. The watch list for the 2011 Mackey Award was released Wednesday.