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|Date of birth:November 18, 1948|
|Place of birth: Cherryville, North Carolina|
|Date of death: July 27, 2010(aged 61)|
|Place of death: Oakland, California|
|High school: Passaic High School|
|College: Ohio State|
|NFL Draft: 1971 / Round: 1 / Pick: 19|
|Debuted in 1971 for the Oakland Raiders|
|Last played in 1980 for the Houston Oilers|
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of 1980
|Stats at DatabaseFootball.com|
|College Football Hall of Fame|
John David "Jack" Tatum (November 18, 1948 – July 27, 2010) was an American football safety who played ten seasons from 1971 through 1980 for the Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers in the National Football League (NFL). He was popularly known as "The Assassin." He was voted to three consecutive Pro Bowls (1973–1975) and was a member of one Super Bowl-winning team in his nine seasons with the Raiders.
Tatum earned a reputation as a fierce competitor, and was considered one of the hardest hitters ever to play the game. In a 2006 poll by Sports Illustrated on the century's best defensive backs, Tatum finished with eighty percent of the vote. He is also known for a hit he made against New England Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley in a 1978 preseason game. The hit paralyzed Stingley from the chest down. Tatum was also noted for his involvement in the Immaculate Reception play during a 1972 playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Tatum was born in Cherryville, North Carolina and grew up in Passaic, New Jersey, where he had little interest in playing sports in his early years. Tatum did not begin playing football until he entered his sophomore year at Passaic High School, where he played as a running back, fullback and defensive back and was selected first-team All-State. He was selected a high school All-American as a high school senior. In 1999, the Newark Star-Ledger named Tatum as one of New Jersey's top ten defensive players of the century.
Tatum visited a number of universities before starting his collegiate career with the Ohio State University Buckeyes. Head coach Woody Hayes recruited Tatum as a running back. However, assistant coach Lou Holtz convinced Hayes to switch Tatum to defensive back during Tatum's freshman season. Tatum was used by the Buckeyes to cover the opposing team's best wide receiver but he also was used occasionally as a linebacker due to the nature of his hits and his innate ability to bring down even the biggest fullback or tight end.
Tatum was a first-team All-Big Ten in 1968, 1969 and 1970. In 1969 and 1970 he was a unanimous All American. In 1970 he was selected as the National Defensive Player of the Year and was among the top vote getters for the Heisman Trophy, which is awarded to the athlete considered to have been the nation's best college football player that year. Tatum helped lead the Buckeyes to a 27-2 record in his three seasons as a starter, with two national championship appearances and one national championship win in 1968, Tatum's first season with the team. And in the storied rivalry between Ohio State and Michigan, Tatum and his fellow Buckeyes won in 1968 by the score of 50-14, lost in 1969 by 24-12, and won again in 1970 by 20-9.
Tatum was inducted into the Ohio State Varsity O Hall of Fame in 1981 and into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2001, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel instituted the "Jack Tatum Hit of the Week Award," given to the player who had the most impressive defensive hit of the game.
|"I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault."|
Tatum was drafted by the Oakland Raiders as the 19th pick in the first round of the 1971 NFL Draft to replace former Oakland safety Dave Grayson, who retired after the 1970 season. A few weeks later, Tatum signed a three-year, six-figure contract with a $50,000 signing bonus. Tatum was nicknamed "The Assassin", a name he embraced and relished. The origin of the nickname is unclear. Some references indicate that he was already known as "the Assassin" as a hard-hitting safety at Ohio State. Others indicate that the name came from the hit that paralyzed Darryl Stingley. Tatum played his first professional game against the Baltimore Colts, in which he tackled and knocked out Colts tight ends John Mackey and Tom Mitchell. Soon after the game, sportswriters started to compare him to Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus because of his hard-hitting skills, and he became the starting free safety in his rookie year.
Tatum was involved in one of the most famous plays in National Football League history, the Immaculate Reception, during the AFC divisional playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on December 23, 1972. With 22 seconds left in the game, Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw a pass to running back John "Frenchy" Fuqua. Tatum collided with Fuqua, knocking the ball into the air. The ball fell into the hands of Steelers running back Franco Harris, who ran it 42 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
Hit on Darryl Stingley
In one of the most lasting images from Super Bowl XI on January 9, 1977, Tatum knocked the helmet off Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Sammy White. This is often regarded as one of the biggest hits in Super Bowl history. But his most infamous hit came in a preseason game against the New England Patriots on August 12, 1978. Tatum and Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley collided as Stingley was leaping for a pass on an inside slant route, a play the Patriots had run earlier in the game with some success that put him in the path of Tatum. There was an awkward collision as Stingley lowered his helmet to protect himself and hit Tatum's shoulder pad. The impact badly damaged Stingley's spinal cord and left him paralyzed from the chest down for the rest of his life. According to Stingley in his 1983 autobiography, Happy To Be Alive, Tatum never made any effort to apologize or to see him after the incident. . Tatum had said he attempted to visit Stingley in the hospital, but was rebuffed by Stingley's family. The two did not speak from that day until Stingley's death on April 5, 2007, although Stingley related in a 2003 interview that he had forgiven Tatum. "It's hard to articulate," he said. "It was a test of my faith, the entire story. In who, and how much, do you believe, Darryl? In my heart and mind, I forgave Jack Tatum a long time ago." Tatum never apologized for the hit, saying that the coaches knew it was a risky play and had called it too many times in the game already, that eventually someone was going to get hurt and it just happened to be Stingley when Tatum was playing. "It could have happened to anybody," said Tatum. "People are always saying, 'He didn't apologize.' I don't think I did anything wrong that I need to apologize for. It was a clean hit."
Tatum was traded to the Houston Oilers for running back Kenny King and two draft choices in the 1980 NFL Draft. He finished his pro career with them in 1980, when he played all sixteen games that season, and recorded a career-high seven interceptions to finish with a career total of 37 interceptions with 736 return yards. He also recovered nine fumbles in his career, returning them for 164 yards.
Tatum also holds the record for the longest fumble return in NFL history. In a game against the Green Bay Packers on September 24, 1972, he returned a fumble 104 yards for a touchdown which could have been called back because of an officiating error. The record was tied 28 years later by Aeneas Williams.
Tatum retired after he was released by the Oilers following the 1980 season. Following the end of his playing career, Tatum became a land developer and moved into the real-estate business. He became part owner of a restaurant in Pittsburg, California. Tatum also married and had three children. He wrote three best-selling books: They Call Me Assassin (1980); They Still Call Me Assassin (1989); and Final Confessions of NFL Assassin Jack Tatum (1996).
Tatum eventually faced his own disability challenges, as all five toes on his left foot were amputated in 2003 due to a staph infection caused by diabetes He also suffered from an arterial blockage that cost him his right leg; he used a prosthetic limb thereafter. Tatum worked in increasing awareness of diabetes. To facilitate this goal, he created the Ohio-based Jack Tatum Fund for Youthful Diabetes, which finances diabetes research. He also served as co-chair of an annual fundraiser for the Central Ohio Diabetes Association, Celebrities for Diabetes, which is held during the week of the Ohio State-Michigan game in Columbus. Tatum died in Oakland on July 27, 2010 after a heart attack.
- The man, the legend, the "Assassin" Retrieved April 1, 2006.
- Whatever happened to Jack Tatum Retrieved April 1, 2006. Archived March 18, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
- Sports Illustrated poll Retrieved April 2, 2006.
- Top 10 Defensive Players Retrieved April 2, 2006.
- Collegefootballnews top 100 college players of all time, number 51 Jack Tatum Retrieved April 1, 2006. Archived February 21, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
- Tatum, Jack Final Confessions of NFL Assassin: Coal Valley Il, Quality Sports Publications, pg 9.
- College Football 1969 Games, Soren Sorensen, Aug 22, 2001.
- Buckeye Fans Only, The Game, The Greatest Rivalry in Sports.
- Men's Varsity "O" Hall of Fame
- 2004 College Football Hall of Fame Division I-A Class Announced Retrieved April 2, 2006
- Tatum, pg 9
- Scout.com: CFN's Tuesday Question – All-Time Defense
- "Athletes not immune to illness' ironic complexities". CNN. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
- Tatum, pg 11
- The play is famous because NFL rules at the time prohibited a receiver from batting the ball to another player of the same team. The referees ruled that Tatum had touched the ball and therefore Harris's touchdown was permitted, allowing the Steelers to win the game. The physics of the matter say the Immaculate Reception ball hit Tatum by Byron Spice, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Retrieved April 1, 2006.
- Top Super Bowl Plays – Defense/Special Teams Retrieved April 2, 2006.
- The Assassin and the Reverend: Remembering the late Jack Tatum by Peter Richmond Sports Illustrated Retrieved August 1, 2010.
- Schudel, Matt (July 28, 2010). "Jack Tatum dies; Oakland Raiders 'Assassin' was 61". The Washington Post.
- The Healer: No String Of Bitterness by Ron Burges Boston Globe Retrieved April 1, 2006.
- Jason Cole (2007-04-06). "Sorrow not guilt". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved 2007-04-06.
- Oilers Waive Jack Tatum, from the May 29, 1981 issue of the New York Times, Retrieved April 2, 2006.
- Lambeau's Lowlights Retrieved April 2, 2006.
- Individual Records: Fumbles, Retrieved April 1, 2006
- Highlights and lowlights of a Super Bowl bonanza, Retrieved April 2, 2006. Archived May 6, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
- Catching Up with Jack Tatum Retrieved April 10, 2007.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Jack Tatum|
- Jack Tatum at the College Football Hall of Fame
- Jack Tatum at Pro-Football-Reference.com
- Jack Tatum at the Internet Movie Database
- Jack Tatum at Find a Grave