John Wilbur (American football)

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John Wilbur
No. 65, 60
Date of birth: (1943-05-21)May 21, 1943
Place of birth: San Diego, California
Date of death: December 9, 2013(2013-12-09) (aged 70)
Place of death: Honolulu, Hawaii
Career information
Position(s): Guard
Tackle
College: Stanford
AFL Draft: 1965 / Round: 6 / Pick: 45
(by the Kansas City Chiefs)
Organizations
As player:
1966-1969
1970
1971-1974
1975
Dallas Cowboys
Los Angeles Rams
Washington Redskins
The Hawaiians (WFL)
Career stats
Playing stats at NFL.com

John Leonard Wilbur (May 21, 1943 – December 9, 2013) was a professional American football offensive lineman for the National Football League and the World Football League.

Refusing football scholarships from University of Southern California and University of California-Los Angeles, he went to Stanford in 1961 intending to study law with an Eagle Scout scholarship. The team was mediocre until Stanford hired two new coaches, future NFL coaches Bill Walsh and Dick Vermeil. Wilbur graduated with a degree in History from Stanford University, and later went on to receive a business degree from the University of California, Los Angeles while playing for the Dallas Cowboys.

In 1965 he was drafted as a free agent to the Dallas Cowboys, at the time coached by Tom Landry. On the Cowboys, blocking for Don Meredith and playing next to Peter Gent, Wilbur was an anti-hero, outspoken against the "racists elements" on the team and in the area.[1] Part of the "Wild Rebel Bunch" contingency of the Cowboys (along with Gent and Meredith), Wilbur infamously organized a group of Cowboys to be security guards at the Texas International Pop Festival. He was recognized for his time as Player Representative in the National Football League Players Association for the Dallas Cowboys. Finally he was traded to Kansas City Chiefs and then the Los Angeles Rams.

After working for the Robert Kennedy campaign in 1968 he played right guard for the Rams under the auspices of the legendary coach George Allen. After one season on the Rams, Allen and the Over-the-Hill Gang left L.A. for the Washington Redskins. In D.C. Wilbur became treasurer for the National Football League Players Association.

Nixon was on his way up and the Vietnam War was raging. In 1972, Wilbur was one of the Redskins to support George McGovern and his anti-war platform. Wilbur became good friends with both George McGovern and a young reporter, Hunter S. Thompson, who was later to write Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72.[1]

In 1973, just before the 1974 National Football League Players Association lockout concerning binding arbitration for salary disputes, Wilbur left the NFL to invest, coach and play on the World Football League team the Hawaiians for higher pay.[2] At the time, average salaries of NFL players were among the lowest in the four major North American sports.[2]

Wilbur played in the historic Ice Bowl as a rookie for the Dallas Cowboys against the Green Bay Packers, and for the Washington Redskins in the 1971 Super Bowl against the Miami Dolphins. He is credited with being one of the first players to sew the sleeves of his jerseys tight, later adopted by the League.

Through his time at Stanford, Wilbur developed a keen appreciation for rugby football. As his years in the National Football League wound down Wilbur became a ringleader of the Hawaii Harlequins Rugby Football Club, and continued to enjoy the social aspects of rugby long after hanging up his boots. Wilbur was a "regular" at the Aspen Ruggerfest until the end.

He died on December 9, 2013. His legacy is maintained by his children Nathan Wilbur, Dione Wilbur, Lindsea Kemp-Wilbur and his four grandchildren.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Golenbock, Peter (1997). Cowboys Have Always Been My Heroes. Warner Books. ISBN 0446519502. 
  2. ^ CNN Library. "Pro Sports Lockouts and Strikes Fast Facts", CNN,3 September 2013. Retrieved on 10 April 2014.