The sports world lost a true giant this week with the death of Gene Upshaw. The 63 year old Upshaw died suddenly from pancreatic cancer. He only learned he had one of the most devastating forms of cancer this past Sunday. Gene Upshaw helped shape the current NFL both as a Hall of Fame offensive guard for the Oakland Raiders and later as the long time executive director of the NFL Players Association.
Under Upshaw’s leadership NFL players salaries skyrocketed and the league became more successful and profitable than ever. His dignified manner and tough negotiating posture made him formidable at the bargaining table but also allowed him the perspective to understand that the players and the owners were indeed partners in the success of the NFL.
Upshaw will be hard to replace, he helmed the NFLPA for 25 years. He was hailed during his life as a trailblazer for players and the league in general. Was he universally popular? Not always. But he was respected across the board.
Gene Upshaw, the Hall of Fame player, was every bit a Hall of Fame executive. He made a difference. He will be missed.