Y.A. Tittle, NFL legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer, dies at age 90

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Y.A. Tittle helped the NFL evolve from its run-centric roots into a passing league. Getty Images

Pro Football Hall of Famer Yelberton Abraham (Y.A.) Tittle has died at the age of 90. 

LSU deputy director of athletics Verge Ausberry told the New Orleans Advocate that the NFL legend died early Monday morning surrounded by his family. Tittle's NFL career started in 1948 after the Detroit Lions made him the No. 6 overall pick in the NFL Draft. However, Tittle never actually played for the Lions because he decided to start his career on the East Coast with the Baltimore Colts of the AAFL. Tittle's tenure with the Colts was cut short when the team folded following the 1950 season. 

Although things didn't work out for the Colts, they worked out for Tittle, who would go on to become one of the NFL's best players over the final 14 seasons of his career. After leaving Baltimore, Tittle signed with the 49ers, but wasn't able to earn the full-time starting job there until his third season, and that's where he would become an NFL legend. 

During his 10 seasons in San Francisco, Tittle amassed a 45-31-1 record and put up some mind-boggling numbers. In 1957, Tittle led the NFL with 176 pass completions, which almost seems absurd when you realize that only one other player in the league that year completed more than 140 passes. Tittle also completed 63.1 percent of his passes that season, becoming the only player in the NFL to complete more than 60 percent of his passes. 

Tittle's 1957 season was rewarded with dozens of accolades: The quarterback was named league MVP by UPI, he was named to the Pro Bowl and also named first-team All-Pro for the first time in his career. 

Tittle's numbers slowly began to slide over the next three years, which led the 49ers to believe his career was over. Before the 1961 season, Tittle's value was so low that the 49ers traded the 34-year-old QB to the Giants for a rookie offensive lineman (Lou Cordileone). 

At age 34, no one would've been surprised if Tittle's career went downhill in New York, but that's not what happened. Instead, the aging quarterback hit his prime with the Giants and led them to three straight NFL title games. 

During those three seasons, Tittle was doing things that you rarely see now. In a 1962 game against the Redskins, Tittle threw for 505 yards and seven touchdowns, which were unheard of numbers in an era known for bruising running backs. Tittle's yardage still stands as the 15th-highest single-game total in NFL history while his seven touchdowns are still tied as the top single-game performance by any quarterback in NFL history. 

Of the top 20 passing performances in NFL history, only two of them took place before 1980 and Tittle's game against the Redskins was one of them. Tittle finished the 1962 season with 32 touchdown passes, and then followed that up with 36 touchdown passes in 1963, making him the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 or more TD passes two seasons in a row. 

Although Tittle never won a title with the Giants -- he went 0-3 in the NFL championship game between 1961-63 -- he did cement his legacy as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play. 

Tittle's final season in 1964 is mostly remembered as the year he ended up in one of the most iconic photos of all-time: A bloodied Tittle kneeled on the field after throwing a pick-six. 

The picture came after a play where Tittle was hit so hard that he suffered a concussion and a cracked sternum. Tittle told ESPN.com recently that he wasn't a huge fan of the photo. 

Tittle retired after the 1964 season with 33,070 career yards and 242 career touchdown passes. Both numbers have stood the test of time. Even though the NFL has changed its rules to encourage more passing, both of Tittle's numbers still rank in the top-35 of all-time. 

Seven years after Tittle retired, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1971). 

Before jumping to the NFL, Tittle spent his college career at LSU. The highlight of his career in Baton Rouge was a 1946 season where he led the Tigers to a 9-1-1 record and a Cotton Bowl appearance. Tittle was named the MVP of a game that ended in a 0-0 tie with Arkansas. 

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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