Joe O'Donnell (American football)

Last updated
Joe O'Donnell
Position: Offensive guard
Personal information
Born:(1941-08-31)August 31, 1941
Ann Arbor, Michigan, US
Died:January 17, 2019(2019-01-17) (aged 77)
Oregon, US
Career information
High school: Milan
College: Michigan
NFL Draft: 1964  / Round: 3 / Pick: 40
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Player stats at PFR

Joseph Raymond O'Donnell (August 31, 1941 – January 17, 2019) was an American football player. He played college football as a fullback, guard and tackle for the University of Michigan from 1960 to 1963. He also played professional football as a guard and tackle for eight seasons for the Buffalo Bills in the American Football League and the National Football League. He was a part of the 1964 and 1965 AFL Championship teams. O'Donnell was an AFL Eastern Division All-Star in 1965. He also came out of retirement to play in the World Football League in 1974 and 1975.

Contents

Early life

O'Donnell was born in 1941 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and attended Milan High School in nearby Milan, Michigan. [1] He was a standout athlete in football, basketball and track. He was an all-state running back in 1958, scoring six touchdowns in a game and 24 in an eight-game season. He also set a Milan school record in basketball with 49 points in a game. [2]

University of Michigan

O'Donnell enrolled at the University of Michigan in 1959. He played for the freshman football team in 1959 as a fullback and retained that position on Michigan's varsity football team in 1960. For the 1961 season, he was moved to the guard position, but broke his arm in the first game against UCLA and sat out the remainder of the season. He was granted an additional year of eligibility due to his missing the 1961 season. [3] He was then moved to the tackle position in 1962 and had more playing time than any other Michigan player that year. At the end of the 1962 season, he was voted by his teammates to be the captain of the 1963 Michigan Wolverines football team. [3]

In 1963, O'Donnell moved back to the guard position, and also served as the team's punter. [4] He averaged 36.4 yards per kick on 48 punts during the 1963 season. [5] In the 1963 season opener against SMU, he faked a punt and ran 50 yards for a touchdown. The fake punt was not a called play. O'Donnell said after the game that he saw one side of SMU's line collapse and took off. [6] He also recovered two fumbles in a 1963 victory over Northwestern. [7] At the end of the 1963 season, the Associated Press selected O'Donnell as a first-team player on its 1963 All-Big Ten Conference football team. [8]

O'Donnell was also an outstanding student at Michigan. He was named to the Big Ten All-Academic teams in 1962 and 1963 and, in 1964, was named to the All-Time All-Academic Big Ten football team. [9]

Professional football

O'Donnell was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the third round of the 1964 NFL Draft and by the Buffalo Bills in the 13th round of the AFL draft (in that era, the AFL and NFL were separate leagues and held separate drafts). He chose to play for the Bills. O'Donnell played for the Bills, primarily as their right guard from 1964 through 1971. [1] In 1964, he was selected to play in the AFL Pro Bowl. [1]

He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals prior to the 1972 season in exchange for guard Irv Goode. [10] He chose to retire from pro football prior to the 1972 season and so never played with the Cardinals. [11]

In 1974, he came out of retirement to play for the Birmingham Americans of the World Football League (WFL). [12] [13] He played for the WFL's Birmingham Vulcans in the 1975 season until the league collapsed.

Post-retirement

After retiring from football, O'Donnell started and ran several businesses including a floor-covering business called "Yardage Distributors", and a butcher-shop/bakery called "The Butcher - The Baker".[ citation needed ] In 1978, he moved his family from their farm in Eden, New York back to Milan, Michigan. He was active in civic affairs in Milan serving on the school board for many years. In the 1980s he organized the annual "Great American Pig Roast" which was a successful fundraising event for the school district. He also served on the coaching staff at Milan High School for many years. [14] In 2010, the high school football field in Milan was renamed "Joe O'Donnell Field" in recognition of his service to the community and the football program. [2]

In the late 1980s O'Donnell provided the color commentary for the radio broadcasts of the University of Michigan football games on the Michigan Farm Radio Network.[ citation needed ]

O'Donnell was married to Caroline (Kerr) O'Donnell (deceased) and has three sons. He died from complications of Alzheimer's disease in 2019. [15] [16]

See also

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References

  1. 1 2 3 "Joe O'Donnell". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved May 10, 2020.
  2. 1 2 Ron Montri (January 19, 2019). "Milan says goodbye to a sports icon". The Monroe News.
  3. 1 2 "O'Donnell Elected 1963 'M' Captain". The Michigan Daily. November 28, 1962. p. 6.
  4. "O'Donnell Keeps Confidence In Wolverines". The Michigan Daily. October 31, 1963. p. 6 via Bentley Historical Library.
  5. ""M" Kickers Strive to Keep Offense in Toe". The Michigan Daily. September 9, 1964. p. 6 via Bentley Historical Library.
  6. "Evashevski Proves Himself as Starter". The Michigan Daily. September 29, 1963. p. 7 via Bentley Historical Library.
  7. "'M' Line Contains Myers; Elliott Lauds Team Effort". The Michigan Daily. November 3, 1963. p. 6.
  8. "Reilly Selected for Big Ten First Team" (PDF). The Daily Iowan. November 30, 1983. p. 4.
  9. "O'Donnell Gets Award As Academic Standout". The Michigan Daily. September 12, 1964. p. 7.
  10. Myers, Jeff (March 5, 1972). "Big Red Get 'Aggressive' Guard". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. p. 2E. Retrieved 2020-04-06 via newspapers.com.
  11. "Joe O'Donnell retires". San Antonio Express. August 17, 1972. p. 6-C. Retrieved 2020-04-06 via newspapers.com.
  12. Miller, Jeffrey J. (2007). Rockin' the Rockpile: The Buffalo Bills of the American Football League. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: ECW Press. p. 497. ISBN   978-1-55022-797-0. After a couple of years away from the games, [Joe] O'Donnell got the urge to play once more and signed with the Birmingham Americans of the World Football League, where he was reunited with former teammates [Paul] Costa and Edgar Chandler.
  13. "Wheels Hope High-Scoring Prospects Draw Fans". The State Journal. July 31, 1974. p. C-6. Retrieved 2020-04-06 via newspapers.com.
  14. "Obituary: Joseph R. O'Donnell". The Milan Eagle. February 10, 2019.
  15. "Former Bills lineman Joe O'Donnell dies at age 77". Buffalo News. January 18, 2019.
  16. "Death Notice". MLive.com.