Joe O'Donnell (American football)

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Joe O'Donnell
Position: Offensive guard
Personal information
Date of birth: (1941-08-31) August 31, 1941 (age 76)
Place of birth: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Career information
College: Michigan
NFL Draft: 1964 / Round: 3 / Pick: 40
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Player stats at PFR

Joseph Raymond "Joe" O'Donnell (born August 31, 1941) is a former American football player. He played college football as a fullback, guard and tackle for the University of Michigan from 1960 to 1963. He also played professional football as a guard and tackle for eight seasons for the Buffalo Bills in the American Football League and the National Football League. He was a part of the 1964 and 1965 AFL Championship teams. O'Donnell was an AFL Eastern Division All-Star in 1965. In 1974, he came out of retirement to play for the Birmingham Americans of the upstart World Football League.[1] He played for the WFL's Birmingham Vulcans in the 1975 season until the league collapsed, returning him to retirement from pro football.

Joe was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 3rd round of the 1964 NFL draft, and by the Buffalo Bills in the 13th round of the AFL draft (in that era, the AFL and NFL were separate leagues and held separate drafts). He chose to play for the Bills.

Joe played his college football at the University of Michigan, where he began his career as a fullback, but moved to the offensive line in his sophomore year. Joe also punted for the Wolverines, and is remembered for a fake punt in a game against Southern Methodist University in 1963 in which he rambled 50 yards for a touchdown. The fake punt was not a called play. Joe had noticed the defensive end releasing early for the return on the previous punt and decided to run for it if he saw that again.

Joe played his high school football in his hometown, Milan, Michigan. He was a standout athlete in football, basketball and track. He held the record for most touchdowns in a season at 26 until it was broken by Jesse Walker in 1989. Joe was on the coaching staff at Milan at the time. For more than 20 years he held the Milan record for most points in a basketball game at 50.

After retiring from football, Joe started and ran several businesses including a floor-covering business called "Yardage Distributors", and a butcher-shop/bakery called "The Butcher - The Baker". In 1978, he moved his family from their farm in Eden, New York back to Milan, Michigan. Joe was active in civic affairs in Milan serving on the school board for many years. In the 1980s Joe organized the annual "Great American Pig Roast" which was a successful fundraising event for the school district. Joe also joined Steve Robb's coaching staff in the Milan high school football program. In 2010, the high school football field in Milan was renamed "Joe O'Donnell Field" in recognition of his service to the community and the football program.

In the late 1980s Joe provided the color commentary for the radio broadcasts of the University of Michigan football games on the Michigan Farm Radio Network.

Joe was married to Caroline (Kerr) O'Donnell (deceased) and has three sons.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Miller, Jeffrey J. (2007). Rockin' the Rockpile: The Buffalo Bills of the American Football League. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: ECW Press. p. 497. ISBN 978-1-55022-797-0. After a couple of years away from the games, [Joe] O'Donnell got the urge to play once more and signed with the Birmingham Americans of the World Football League, where he was reunited with former teammates [Paul] Costa and Edgar Chandler. 

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