Peter Gent

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Peter Gent
Date of birth: (1942-08-23)August 23, 1942
Place of birth: Bangor, Michigan
Date of death: September 30, 2011(2011-09-30) (aged 69)
Place of death: Bangor, Michigan
Career information
Position(s): Wide receiver
College: Michigan State
Organizations
As player:
1964–1968 Dallas Cowboys
Career stats
Playing stats at NFL.com

George Davis Peter Gent (August 23, 1942 – September 30, 2011) was a Michigan State University basketball player and National Football League wide receiver turned novelist. He authored the best-seller North Dallas Forty.

Early days[edit]

At Bangor High School (Michigan), Gent was a standout four-sport athlete (football, basketball, baseball and track). In basketball he led the Bangor Vikings team to the 1960 state Class C Championship, while accumulating a 22.6 scoring average. The team was known as the Cardiac Kids for their late-game wins in District, Regional, Quarter-Final and Semi-Final games. The final game against top-ranked Grand Rapids Lee was no exception, it was tied 41–41 after three quarters and Bangor went on to win it 57–45. Gent led the team with 21 points, and was named to the All-Tourney Team which was chosen from schools of all sizes throughout the state.

The Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan, in association with the Detroit Free Press, has sponsored since the spring of 1981, the Hal Schram Mr. Basketball award, given to the state’s top prep senior. Gent was awarded the “Retro" Mr. Basketball award, given to state players previous to 1981, that would have been named Mr. Basketball if there was such an award at the time.

College career[edit]

Gent was a center/forward with the Michigan State University basketball team from 1962 to 1964. He became the first player in school history to lead the basketball team in scoring three consecutive seasons. In his senior year, he averaged 21 points per game. He left school ranked as MSU's second career scorer, with a total of 1,146 points. He averaged 17.4 points per game for his college career, he was third team All-Big Ten in 1963 and second team All-Big Ten in 1964.

In 1964 he was awarded the Big Ten Conference Medal of Honor, which is given annually to a male and female athlete at each of the Big Ten institutions, who demonstrates the greatest proficiency in scholarship and athletics. Gent graduated from Michigan State University with a BA in advertising.

Gent was the recipient of the 2005 Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Professional career[edit]

Dallas Cowboys[edit]

Although Gent never played a down of college football,[1] Gil Brandt was impressed by his athleticism and offered him a try out with the Dallas Cowboys. On a lark, Gent went to the Cowboys training camp in the summer of 1964, after hearing they were paying $500 to players who attended.

As with Cornell Green whom the Cowboys had converted two years earlier, he was first tried at defensive back, but at 6–4 and about 210 pounds, he wasn’t compact enough to execute the quick turns and pivots required to play in the secondary. The coaches decided that Gent’s best chance was at wide receiver, where he wound up making the team and turning down a contract offer with the Baltimore Bullets, who had drafted him in the 14th round of the 1964 NBA Draft.

He became a valuable wide receiver by his second year in 1965, while splitting time with Buddy Dial and playing opposite to Bob Hayes. In 1965, Gent caught 16 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns. In 1966, he had 27 receptions for 474 yards (averaging 17.6 yard per catch) and one touchdown. In 1967 with the arrival of Lance Rentzel and his declining-health problems, he was moved to tight end.

Gent's career was marred by injury, having had 2 knee operations and constant back problems. He was known for his intelligence, soft hands and size. He caught passes mostly from quarterback Don Meredith, with whom he enjoyed a close friendship off the field.

New York Giants[edit]

In 1969 he was traded to the New York Giants, but he was cut before the regular season started, ending his NFL career.

Writing career[edit]

After leaving professional football, Gent wrote several novels dealing with the sport. His first and most famous book, a semi-autobiographical novel entitled North Dallas Forty, was published in 1973. Its main characters, a quarterback and a wide receiver, are widely considered to be based on Gent and Don Meredith, respectively. The novel was one of the first to examine the NFL's hypocrisy regarding drug use.

North Dallas Forty was made into a movie of the same name in 1979 starring Nick Nolte, Mac Davis, G.D. Spradlin, and Dayle Haddon. Gent wrote the screenplay for the film. During the making of the film, he experienced creative difficulties with producer Frank Yablans.[2][not in citation given (See discussion.)]

Gent made his home in Texas for many years, where he was friends with many of the significant creative minds of the day, including Larry L. King, Billy Lee Brammer, Gary Cartwright, Bud Shrake, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Dan Jenkins. They called themselves the Mad Dogs.

Gent also explored the corruption in modern professional sports in a sequel volume entitled North Dallas After 40, published in 1989, and in an unrelated football novel The Franchise, published in 1983.

Personal life[edit]

Gent had two children, Holly Gent Palmo (born 1963) and Carter Davis Gent (born 1976). He resided in Bangor, Michigan at the time of his death from a pulmonary disease on September 30, 2011,[3] and was working on a novel.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mihoces, Gary (April 20, 2005). "NFL seeks best players on the court or mat". USA Today. Archived from the original on October 28, 2013. Retrieved October 28, 2013. 
  2. ^ Yardley, Jonathan (November 19, 1973). "Still Think Playing Pro Ball Is Fun? Peter Gent's First Novel Will Fix That". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved October 3, 2011. 
  3. ^ Goldstein, Richard (October 2, 2011). "Peter Gent, Football Novelist, Dies at 69". New York Times. Retrieved October 3, 2011. 
  4. ^ WWMT-TV obituary (October 1, 2011) at the Wayback Machine (archived January 4, 2012)