Dave Kopay, who finished his nine-year NFL career in Green Bay in 1972, turns 76 today. Kopay, a Chicago native, first enrolled at Marquette, but then transferred to the University of Washington after the Hilltoppers dropped football in 1960. In 1964 he made the 49ers’ roster as an undrafted free agent rookie.
In his career, he never gained more yards rushing than the 271 he accumulated as a rookie, nor caught more than the 20 passes he grabbed that season. Kopay was a reserve player who stayed in the league primarily as a kicking teams’ standout. He spent four years in San Francisco, one in Detroit, two in Washington and one in New Orleans before being claimed on waivers by the Packers during training camp in 1972.
Lee Remmel profiled him in the Green Bay Press Gazette in October of that season and quoted backfield coach Red Cochran’s assessment: “Dave’s a veteran and knows what he’s doing in all situations. He runs both positions in the backfield equally well. And he’s a coachable kid–he looks younger than he actually is so you think of him as being younger than he actually is. He is an accomplished football player.”
Kopay told Remmel, “I really feel this is very much a team. I’ve seen situations where that wasn’t true and I think there’s a closeness here when the guys get together to play football.” Kopay’s kick coverage play was a positive factor for the 1972 division champs. He returned to the Packers training camp in 1973 but was placed on the taxi squad and never played in the NFL again.
Two years later, of course, Dave became forever known as being the first former NFL player to come out as being gay. He tried to get into coaching in the league, but Packers’ coach Bart Starr was the only person who even replied to his inquiries. Kopay never had an official card for any team for which he played. Here’s an unofficial one.
Custom Card in 1972 Topps Style.