Chuck Hughes

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Chuck Hughes
refer to caption
Hughes c. 1971
No. 13, 85
Position:Wide receiver
Personal information
Born:(1943-03-02)March 2, 1943
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died:October 24, 1971(1971-10-24) (aged 28)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Height:5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight:173 lb (78 kg)
Career information
High school:Abilene
(Abilene, Texas)
College:Texas Western (1964–1966)
NFL draft:1967 / Round: 4 / Pick: 99
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Receiving yards:262
Player stats at · PFR

Charles Frederick Hughes (March 2, 1943 – October 24, 1971) was an American football wide receiver who played in the National Football League (NFL) from 1967 to 1971 with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Detroit Lions. [1]

Early years[edit]

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,[2] Hughes moved with his family to Texas when he was young, along with his 12 siblings.[3] Hughes attended high school in Abilene at Abilene High School.[4] Hughes was also an avid golfer, having played with Chi Chi Rodriguez and Lee Trevino.[5]

College career[edit]

Hughes played college football for the Texas Western Miners,[2] where he is still listed in the all-time football records; his accomplishments include:

  • The most all-purpose yards in a single game, 401 in 1965 against North Texas State (he is also second with 360 the same year against Arizona State)
  • The most yards per reception for a single game, 34.9, also in 1965 against North Texas—this is also an NCAA record
  • The most receptions in a single game, 17, also against Arizona State in 1965
  • Second in all-purpose yards for a season, with 2044 in 1966
  • First in all-purpose yards per game for a season, 204 in 1965
  • Second in all-purpose yards per game for his career with 132
  • Fifth in all-purpose yards all-time with 3,989
  • Second in career receiving touchdowns with 19 and yardage with 2,882

He was inducted into the UTEP Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006.[6]

Professional career[edit]

Hughes was selected in the fourth round by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1967 NFL/AFL draft and played three seasons with the Eagles before he was traded to the Detroit Lions prior to the start of the 1970 season. Although listed as a wide receiver he saw most action on special teams, being a backup at wide receiver. In his five-year career he caught 15 passes.


Hughes had suffered an injury in an August 1971 preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, which led to him collapsing in the locker room. He was hospitalized, but doctors were unable to diagnose what was wrong (suspecting a spleen injury) and he was released, despite never fully recovering. Hughes, who would suffer from what he believed was acid reflux and other maladies for the remaining two months of his life, insisted on continuing to play, saying that the pain he was experiencing was "not that bad."[7]

On October 24, 1971, the Lions hosted the Chicago Bears at Tiger Stadium. Late in the 4th quarter, with Detroit trailing 28–23, the Lions were driving into Chicago territory and Hughes, who entered the game as an injury replacement, caught a pass from quarterback Greg Landry for 32 yards and a first down at the Bears' 37-yard line.

Three plays later, Landry threw a pass that tight end Charlie Sanders dropped near the end zone. Hughes, a decoy on the play, began running back to the huddle with 1:02 showing on the clock. Suddenly, he dropped to the turf clutching his chest around the 20-yard line.[3] Hughes collapsed near Bears linebacker Dick Butkus, who saw him begin to convulse violently on the field. Butkus motioned to the sideline frantically to get Hughes assistance.[8]

Both teams' doctors and trainers, along with a physician who happened to be attending the game, ran to Hughes to try to save him. An ambulance was called for and arrived to take Hughes to Henry Ford Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 5:34 pm that afternoon. He was 28 years old. The game was played to its conclusion in front of a now-stunned silent crowd in Tiger Stadium, with the Bears' lead holding. The Lions awaited word of Hughes' condition after the game and the players were informed once word had broken that he was dead.

A postmortem examination revealed that Hughes was suffering from undiagnosed and advanced arteriosclerosis (one of his coronary arteries was 75% blocked) and that he had a family history of heart disease. The direct cause of death was a coronary thrombosis that cut off blood flow to the heart, which caused a massive myocardial infarction.[9][10] Hughes was buried in San Antonio, Texas, and all 40 of his Lions teammates attended his funeral, including head coach Joe Schmidt.[4] He was survived by his widow, Sharon Leah, and by his son, who was 1 year and 11 months old at the time, Brandon Shane.[3] A $10,000 trust fund was set up for his son by an insurance company.[11] His widow filed a $21.5 million malpractice lawsuit against Henry Ford Hospital in 1972 for not diagnosing his condition after the Bills game. The lawsuit was settled on October 3, 1974, for an undisclosed amount of money.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ VanOchten, Brian (March 8, 2009). "Add loss of Corey Smith to list of Lions' tragedies". Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Hughes Collapses, Dies After Game". Spartanburg (SC) Herald-Journal. October 25, 1971.
  3. ^ a b c "Chuck Hughes Tragic Death Stuns Players, Fans". Sarasota Journal. October 25, 1971.
  4. ^ a b "Lion Teammates At Hughes' Rites". Victoria Advocate. October 28, 1971.
  5. ^ "Football Thursday: Legacy of Chuck Hughes goes deeper than being only NFL player to die on field during a game". Retrieved January 4, 2023.
  6. ^ "2006 Inductees". Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  7. ^ Dow, Bill (October 23, 2021). "Remembering the tragic day Detroit Lions' Chuck Hughes died on the field 50 years ago". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved January 4, 2023.
  8. ^ "Shocking moments in NFL history". Retrieved March 21, 2010.
  9. ^ "Hughes Had Bad Arteries". Star-Banner. October 26, 1971.
  10. ^ "Hughes Family Had History of Heart Trouble". Times-News. October 25, 1971.
  11. ^ "Heart Disease Ran In Family". St. Petersburg Times. October 27, 1971.
  12. ^ "Hughes Suit Is Settled". Argus-Press. October 4, 1974.

External links[edit]